After more than two tense hours and a stretch that must have had Coach Gary Williams thinking how he was going to explain this one, No. 21 Maryland rallied from an eight-point deficit late in regulation and pulled away in overtime for a 76-65 victory over Winthrop before 10,107 at Cole Field House last night.
Forward Terence Morris scored six of his team-high 19 points in overtime, including two free throws with 3 minutes 48 seconds left that gave Maryland a 64-62 advantage, its first lead since more than three minutes remained in the first half. Later, guard Juan Dixon penetrated and fed Morris for a powerful two-handed dunk that sealed the victory and allowed the Terrapins (7-2) to start celebrating their 68th consecutive nonconference home victory, the longest such streak in the nation.
"It wasn't pretty, but it was a game we could have lost very easily, obviously," Williams said.
After the game, in a radio interview that was broadcast in the arena and during a news conference, Williams voiced his displeasure with the size of the crowd. Cole Field House has a capacity of 14,500, and many seats were empty in the general seating and student sections.
"I'm really disappointed," Williams said during the news conference. "We're the 19th-ranked team in the country [in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll]. If I was coaching at Ohio State, for instance, and we were the 19th-ranked team in the country, they would be waiting in line to get into the gym. . . . All those people that come on Saturday night when you won't be able to get a ticket to come in here, I think they're coming to see Kentucky play. That's how I feel. If nobody likes that, then that's too bad."
However, Williams was pleased with his team's ability to battle back late in regulation. The Terrapins, who had trailed since the score was tied at 36 early in the second half, trailed 60-52 with five minutes left before making a run.
Forward Danny Miller made a three-pointer from the left corner, then Morris stole the inbounds pass and passed to Dixon, who was fouled. He made the ensuing two free throws, then Maryland forced a shot-clock violation with reserve Drew Nicholas--in place of struggling freshman Steve Blake-- defending Winthrop point guard Tyson Waterman (22 points).
Dixon followed with a jumper from the free throw line that pulled Maryland within 60-59 with 3:59 left in regulation, the fifth time Maryland pulled within one point in the second half. The Terrapins trailed 62-60 when Winthrop forward Greg Lewis missed two free throws. After Nicholas missed a three-point try and Morris's putback attempt was blocked out of bounds, Nicholas made a running bank shot from the right wing to tie the score at 62 with 1:02 left.
Following a Winthrop turnover, Maryland had a chance to win in regulation, but Morris and Dixon missed long three-point attempts. In overtime, the Terrapins did not allow a field goal and never trailed.
Despite the close call, Morris said he felt good about the outcome.
"A win is a win," Morris said.
Morris finished with a season-high 14 rebounds. Sophomore center Lonny Baxter added 13 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
Through much of the game, Maryland appeared headed to its first nonconference home loss since Dec. 12, 1989, during Williams's first season in College Park.
Winthrop (4-2), which won the Big South Conference tournament last season and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, was able to handle Maryland's press and controlled tempo with its 2-3 zone defense. The Eagles took a 9-2 lead and led 18-11 midway through the half when Maryland made its biggest run to take a 31-22 lead.
But the Terrapins could not hold the lead and the score was tied at 34 at halftime. In the final five minutes of the half, they shot 1 of 5 and had three turnovers. The turnovers included a poor alley-oop pass by Nicholas, a cross-court pass from Miller on a fast break that sailed into Winthrop's bench and Miller failing to catch a pass from Blake.
After finally rallying in the second half and overtime, Williams said he is ready for a brief break before Maryland hosts No. 23 Kentucky.
"I need some rest, and I'm sure the players do, too," Williams said. "I told them they were banned from Cole Field House [today]."