COLUMBIA, MO., JAN. 6 -- The Maryland Terrapins are improving. They are progressing. They are getting better in almost every way. They will probably win a tough game on the road some night this year.
But not here, and not tonight.
By pushing the ball inside, crashing the boards and establishing residency at the foul line, the Missouri Tigers beat the Terrapins, 93-85, in front of 12,705 fans at the Hearnes Center.
The Tigers (9-2), who were led by Derrick Chievous' 25 points, were ahead for nearly all of the second half, but it was a one-point game with just over a minute to play. Rudy Archer, who led Maryland with 26 points, scored on a floater in the lane to cut the Missouri lead to 83-82 with 1:10 left in the game. But then came the play that the Terrapins thought cost them the game.
The Tigers spread the floor and Byron Irvin got past Maryland's Keith Gatlin on a backdoor cut. Irvin scored and Gatlin was called for an intentional foul and Irvin made one of the two free throws. Because it was an intentional foul, Missouri inbounded under the Maryland basket. Tigers point guard Lee Coward slid inside of Archer to score and, when he made the free throw that accompanied it, Missouri had scored six points within two seconds. That put the Tigers ahead, 89-82, with 45 seconds left.
"Up until that time, we were in the ball game," Maryland Coach Bob Wade said. "I didn't see Keith foul the kid."
The Terrapins (8-3) were still in the game late because of their outside shooting. They were 14 of 29 from three-point range, with Archer making five of 10 and Gatlin five of eight. But they lost the game at the foul line. While the Terrapins were there 15 times, and made nine of them, the Tigers went to the line 40 times and got 32 points. The Atlantic Coast Conference officials doing the game called 28 fouls on Maryland and 17 on Missouri.
"They must be trying to be fair," said Wade, who then muttered: "Unreal, unreal."
This was the first game this year for Gatlin and forward Rodney Walker. They had been cleared of academic and transfer restrictions this week. Walker, who transfered from Syracuse last winter, played seven minutes and had two rebounds. Gatlin, who hadn't played in a collegiate game in 21 months, finished with 17 points.
"It didn't feel that strange," said Gatlin, whose outside shooting surprised the Tigers.
"I was in the gym a lot," he said of his time away from the team. "I did a lot of shooting by myself. But it would have been a lot sweeter if the team had won."
The Terrapins were cold to start the game, but warmed up and took the lead. They tried first to go inside to Brian Williams (eight points) and Tony Massenburg (12 points), but the Tigers were dropping guards down to double- and triple-team.
"The inside game wasn't working too well," Archer said. "So sometimes it was inside and sometimes it was outside."
Either way, the Terrapins did enough to take an 11-point lead. It wasn't greater because the Tigers made 12 of 14 free throws, while Maryland made two of the four it had.
"Free throw shooting in the first half kept Missouri in the game," Wade said. "We couldn't get to the line. We tried to go inside and draw fouls but we kept getting nothing."
Derrick Lewis, who did a solid defensive job on Chievous in the first half, made a three-pointer 3:26 before the half to give Maryland a 38-28 lead. But then the Terrapins got nothing the rest of the half. The Tigers scored 10 straight for a 38-38 tie at the half.
Williams, who was hampered with fouls and eventually departed with five, scored to open the second half, but that would be Maryland's last lead. The Tigers outscored the Terrapins by 12-3 over a 2 1/2 minute stretch to take a 50-41 lead with 14:25 left.
"We didn't do a very good job in stopping their second and third shots," Wade said.
The margin would fluctuate, with the Terrapins getting close but not close enough. The lead was 79-71 with 3:35 left in the game. But Dave Dickerson scored and Archer used one of his better playground moves to score. After Irvin scored, Archer made a three-pointer to cut the margin to 81-80 with 1:49 left. Cheivous, who had 17 in the second half on a variety of shots, scored, but Archer countered. That left it 83-82.
"We got it down to one point and I felt pretty good," Archer said. But then came the six-point play and the Terrapins were about done.
This was not an agonizing, last-second loss like the one at LSU, but it bothered the Terrapins just the same. They will have to play in more arenas where fans hurl insults that are well researched but still in poor taste.
"We made mistakes," Wade said. "We will try to correct them."