- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2003

SAN ANTONIO — Goodbye, Maryland.

It was fun while it lasted.

This was not the time to see the team that lost five of its last 10 games going into the NCAA tournament.

The Terps played about five minutes of inspired basketball at the Alamodome last night.

That almost was enough to trump the previous 35 minutes in the game, 30 of it fairly lacking by the Terps' standards.

The final: Michigan State 60, Maryland 58.

The Terps came out in an awful state and stayed there for the longest time.

They missed 10 of their first 12 field goal attempts. They threw the ball away a couple of times.

Steve Blake, in particular, was careless with the ball on a number of occasions.

It also didn't help that Nik Caner-Medley sustained an ankle injury in the first half and was taken to a local hospital for X-rays. His absence disrupted the Terps' rhythm further, as well as the customary rotation of players.

It was that kind of first half for the Terps. Nothing much went in their favor. They were fortunate to be down by only 29-24 after 20 minutes.

Terps coach Gary Williams burned a timeout after the Spartans pushed their advantage to 14-4 after Aloysius Anagonye retrieved a miss and put the ball through the basket.

The Terps' time for reflection in the sideline huddle seemed to help, if only momentarily. Tahj Holden hit a baseline jumper, Drew Nicholas hit a pair of shots, and Blake hit a 3-pointer to pull the Terps to 15-13.

The Terps soon fell into a funk again.

This was their inconsistent side making an appearance in late March, an unforgiving time in college basketball. The Terps seemed to have purged themselves of their late-season demons last weekend in Nashville, Tenn., where they pulled out a victory over UNC Wilmington on the buzzer-beating shot of Nicholas and then looked so efficient against Xavier.

The Terps seemed to have turned a corner in the Music City, or at least they wanted to believe they had turned a corner.

But no such thing was evident against the Spartans, the Big Ten's answer to the ACC Terps, both teams just talented enough to perplex.

The Terps could not complete the most elementary plays at times. Blake once misread a pick-and-roll play with Holden, delivering the pass where Holden was not. This was a troublesome sign, considering both players are seniors.

Not that the Spartans were significantly more impressive than the Terps. It was not that kind of game. It was one of those try-to-survive-it games in the tournament. No one would want to view the game film later, with the possible exception of the winning coach.

The Spartans sometimes have a tendency to give offense a bad name. They came into the game averaging 13 fewer points than the Terps and with only one player, Chris Hill, averaging in double figures at 14.0.

Magic Johnson, who led the Spartans to the national championship in 1979, was in attendance and possibly squirming in his seat at the lack of potency.

The Terps tied the game early in the second half on a layup by Nicholas before reverting to their previous struggles. They could not find the basket, and they could not find the answer on defense. Bad turned worse.

The Spartans fashioned a 15-2 run, and the Terps reacted as if the end was near. They hurried their sets on offense, and they rushed a few shots, and they appeared to forget that there was still enough time.

The Terps appeared completely out of it after Blake stole the ball in the Michigan State backcourt midway through the second half and had an unimpeded path to the basket. There was no defender within shouting distance of Blake. Inexplicably, he went up for a two-handed dunk shot and allowed the ball to be blocked by the bottom of the rim.

The Terps, though, eventually righted themselves by extending their defense to 94 feet and contesting the Spartans each step of the way. Behind Blake and Nicholas, the Terps went on a 15-0 run to take a one-point lead. The teams fought to the end from there, setting up another dramatic finish for the Terps.

There 4.7 seconds left, and 94 feet to negotiate, not unlike the UNC Wilmington game last week.

This time, though, it was Blake who took the shot instead of Nicholas.

And Blake missed from the top of the key.

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