- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Can one basket win several games? The Maryland Terrapins, who suddenly have turned from sleepers to stalkers, might be about to find out.
Sixth-seeded Maryland (20-9) will have renewed momentum today when it meets third-seeded Xavier (26-5) in the NCAA South Region second round at Gaylord Entertainment Center. Maryland survived UNC Wilmington 75-73 Friday night on guard Drew Nicholas' 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Fear the Turtle II? The defending champions suddenly feel invincible.
"We'd like to ride that momentum into the next game," coach Gary Williams said. "You can do that in the NCAA tournament because it goes so quick. The adrenaline rush you get from that game can carry you through for the emotion necessary to play Xavier. … I'd like to think we'll come out flying now."
Maryland players certainly were flying around the court after the game-winning basket. The Terps overcame a four-point deficit with 1:41 remaining even after the Seahawks regained the lead with five seconds left to win their first-round game for the sixth straight year. Suddenly, a team that limped into the tournament off two straight losses has regained its swagger.
"A lot of pressure is gone," center Ryan Randle said. "We made it to the second round. There's a lot of confidence going around this room."
Said Nicholas: "It gives us that sense of urgency. That's as close as you can get to having your season over."
Added forward Tahj Holden: "We're going to be a tough out in this tournament."
Forward Nik Caner-Medley called Nicholas' basket a heart-stopping moment, literally. Williams said the freshman was too young for a heart attack, but such endings might be a problem for the 58-year-old coach.
"Nik's fine he ought to worry about the old man coaching," Williams said jokingly. "It would be on ESPN if I [died after] that game, so it wouldn't be bad."
Even Nicholas couldn't believe the shot was good. Neither could UNC Wilmington coach Brad Brownell, who said he would have let Nicholas attempt it 10 times and "try my luck."
Nicholas' teammates teased him on the bus ride to practice yesterday to try the same shot in the workout just to see what would happen. Nicholas declined to learn whether the basket was a great shot or great fortune.
"I'll let that be," he said. "I'm 1-for-1, and I'm never going to take that shot again. I really thought it was going to come up short, but I guess the momentum I had from running so fast as I shot it must have carried the ball in. I wouldn't necessarily call that a shot. I won't say that was planned. I snapped my wrist so I guess it counts as a shot, but what can I say it's March Madness. This game will stick with me for a long, long time."
Nicholas said the shot seemed to travel in slow motion as the buzzer sounded while the ball was in midflight.
"Once I saw the ball go in, that's when everything went back to fast forward," he said. "I was sprinting thought I was Carl Lewis or something."
It was a remarkable comeback given that even Williams said the Terps seemed "a little disheartened" after missing several high-percentage shots underneath. That permitted little confidence that Maryland could travel the entire court in five seconds to get the game-winner.
"We were dead with 1:20 left in the game and refused to buy into that," he said. "You're trying to motivate. You can't let them feel sorry for themselves. That's all I was trying to do win the game. We have some guys with guts. They came through."
The five seniors felt their 63 games combined of tournament experience the most in the field was the difference in the comeback.
"A lot of it is instinct," guard Steve Blake said. "We've been down a few games this year and fought hard to get back into them. We just try to take over. Been here a long time, done a lot of things, been under a lot of pressure, so when we're put into those pressure situations we can take advantage of them. It came down to the experience, came down to the players."
Randle delivered one of his better games this season with 15 points and 16 rebounds after going scoreless in the first half of two straight losses. Now "Sleepy" is sporting a scratchy beard that he won't shave until the team loses.
"Scary and rough that's the image I want," he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide