Maryland's bid for an appearance in the NCAA tournament round of 16 failed today, the Terrapins unable to fend off the inevitable offense of Nevada-Las Vegas. The Runnin' Rebels instead will go to Houston, defeating Maryland, 70-64, in the second round of the West regional at Long Beach Arena.
UNLV will go to Houston to meet Auburn in the regional semifinals Thursday night. Earlier in the day, the Tigers pulled off a stunning upset of fourth-ranked St. John's, 81-65. The Tigers defeated the first-seeded team in the West with 27 points from forward Chuck Person, while holding all-America Walter Berry to 20 and just four in the second half.
Maryland (19-14) made a spectacular run at the Rebels (33-4) before its season was ended. UNLV was up by seven as late as the 2:25 mark. But the Rebels missed three one-and-one free throws to help Maryland back in it, and the Terrapins then cut a five-point lead UNLV held with 59 seconds to go to one with 40 seconds left.
Trailing, 63-58, Len Bias, who finished with 31 points -- including 19 of Maryland's final 21 -- got two free throws to cut the deficit to three. When Mark Wade missed his one-and-one with 41 seconds to go, Bias came down with the rebound and drew Armon Gilliam's fourth foul. Bias sunk both ends of his one-and-one to make it a one-point game, 63-62.
But then Anthony Jones got a layup opportunity, and David Dickerson was forced to foul him. The layup didn't go in, but his two free throws did, making it 65-62 with 35 seconds to go. Jones finished with a team-high 25 points.
Then Maryland missed a one-and-one, freshman guard John Johnson's attempt after Banks' foul bouncing out with 27 seconds left. Gilliam went to the line and made both ends of his one-and-one. That made it 67-62 with 22 seconds left. When Maryland's Jeff Baxter was called for a charge with 15 seconds left, the game was effectively over. Bias fouled out with three seconds left.
Maryland trailed, 33-27, at the end of a first half that was bruising even to watch. The Terrapins got just eight points from Bias, who was surrounded on all sides at all times.
But the packed-in middle took its toll on UNLV's defense, because Eldridge Hudson, who was given the initial task of checking Bias, picked up his third foul with 9:59 still left. Jarvis Basnight took over, but he picked up two fouls in the period, and Gilliam also picked up two.
The Running Rebels' lived up to the name, beating the Terrapins to the ball repeatedly and harassing the backcourt with a straight 2-3 zone, when they weren't trapping. They took advantage of seven turnovers and gave it up just three times.
UNLV reeled off seven straight points, forcing two straight Maryland turnovers, to take a 13-8 lead early. Wade started it with his three-point play on a coast-to-coast fast break, and Freddie Banks added two sort jumpers.
Maryland, however, came back with an 11-5 run to take a 19-18 lead, scattering the points between Bias, Baxter, Tom (Speedy) Jones, Johnson and Derrick Lewis. Johnson's jumper came with 6:29 left to give the Terrapins the one-point lead.
But UNLV seized control again immediately. The Rebels outscored Maryland, 15-6, over the next 5:25, getting seven points from Anthony Jones, on a three-point play off a swooping jam and two jumpers. His 18-footer made it 33-25 with 1:04 left.
Maryland scored the final points of the period, on Lewis' rebound layup.
The Terrapins opened the second half by scoring 14 straight points over a 5:23 period. Keith Gatlin started it off with three straight long jumpers.
Jones added a rebound jam, Bias hit from the corner, then Bias got a slam on a fast break after Lewis blocked Mark Wade's shot. Gatlin added another long jumper with 14:37 left to end the run, giving Maryland a 41-33 lead.
But UNLV had a streak coming. The Runnin' Rebels answered with 11 straight points and a 17-2 scoring run to take a 50-43 lead.
Bias cut it to five at 50-45 with his two free throws with 8:27 to go. But UNLV was able to maintain its lead the rest of the way, with Maryland cutting it to one point late in the game but never regaining the lead.
The loss by St. John's was the last in a humbling series of defeats for the Big East, which does not have a team remaining in the tournament. The Redmen looked uninspired and mainly tired against an Auburn team that pushed the ball up relentlessly and outrebounded them, 38-22.
"We looked anemic," Redmen Coach Lou Carnesecca said. "We looked like we needed a tonic or something."
Berry led St. John's with 20 points, but the Wooden Award winner had trouble getting off the floor because of his ankle injury. He was the victim of a variety of combination defenses, but mainly of Person, who was instrumental in holding him to four points in the second half.
Person, meanwhile, has established himself as a first-round NBA draft pick here after being denied all-America honors. The 6-8 forward scored eight of Auburn's first 10 points on his way to 27 for the game and had 15 rebounds.
"I was very disappointed not making all-America," he said. "It was very frustrating; I thought I deserved it. I felt I had to prove coming in that I could play with the top caliber, and I think I did. I'm not bragging, but that's how I feel."
Auburn jumped on the Redmen from the outset, taking a 44-32 lead at halftime, then building a 57-38 margin on Person's tipin with 16:08 remaining. The Redmen mounted a comeback, cutting it to eight with 9:13 remaining on a 17-6 run, but that was as close as they would get.
Center Jeff Moore scored 15 points and guard Gerald White had 10 for Auburn. Ron Rowan had 14 and Willie Glass 12 for St. John's.
"I thought Auburn played like a coach would want a team to play," Carnesecca said. "They were simply marvelous. . . . We tried everything, but we couldn't stop them.