- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2000


MINNEAPOLIS March Madness resembled a Steve Francis fiesta for Maryland's basketball team last night as the Terps blasted through the NCAA tournament's first round with the transition highlights that defined their spectacular 1998-99 squad.

Third-seeded Maryland blitzed 14th-seeded Iona 74-59 at the Metrodome, limiting the indiscriminate Gaels to just 33.3 percent shooting. The Terps also finished with a 49-32 rebounding edge and forced 17 turnovers.

Those statistics led to fastbreak finishes even though Francis, Laron Profit and Terrell Stokes were nowhere to be found. But that's just as well for these Terps, who earned coach Gary Williams' first ACC title game appearance last weekend and now are shooting for Williams' first Elite Eight berth.

The victory advances Maryland (25-9) to a second-round contest against No. 6 UCLA or No. 10 Ball State, which met in a late game. The gregarious Gaels (20-11), coached by former Washington Bullets center Jeff Ruland, return home after a short but engaging stay in the tournament.

Before last night, Iona's most recent trip to the tournament came in 1998, when Ruland was an assistant to Tim Welsh. The Gaels lost to Syracuse that year on a fluky last-second 3-pointer; the experience gave them confidence leading up to last night's game.

But Maryland led by 21 points early in the second half and by as many as 28 in the period, but a late flurry by Iona cut the lead to 12 in the game's final minutes. The Terps' lack of concentration down the stretch kept Williams barking at and berating his players.

Junior forward Terence Morris led Maryland with one of his most impressive performances of the season. He finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, just off his season highs in those categories (25 and 14, not in the same contest).

Most promising was Morris' jump shooting, which has been cold much of the season. Morris converted eight of 14 shots, including one of two from 3-point range. The performance came with Morris starting at small forward in place of Danny Miller, who sprained his ankle in Sunday's ACC title game loss to Duke and did not play.

An atrocious first half by Iona allowed Maryland to hold a 38-25 lead at intermission. The Terps' edge was generated in the game's first eight minutes, when a 23-2 run sent them into a 23-4 lead. The Gaels never drew closer than nine points later in the period.

Morris scored 10 points during the run. Morris, in whose traditional power forward position freshman Tahj Holden started, scored twice on tips during the surge and added a 3-pointer to cap it. He had a double-double 14 points, 10 rebounds by halftime.

Maryland shot 46.9 percent in the first half, compared with just 24.1 percent by the Gaels. Senior Tariq Kirksay (24 points, 10 rebounds) hit an 18-foot jumper on Iona's first possession, then the team went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal. The Gaels also shot 2-for-11 from 3-point range.

Maryland outrebounded Iona 28-12 in the first half. The effort was led by Morris' 10, while Lonny Baxter added six and Juan Dixon five. Baxter finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Dixon had 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

The Gaels played an unusual form of matchup zone while Maryland mixed its traditional man-to-man with a 3-2 zone. But the defensive sets were applicable only when the opposing transition offenses failed. Ultimately, Maryland played as much fastbreak basketball as it had since last season.

Iona cut the deficit to 28-19 when Kirksay hit a layup to cap a 15-5 run. But Steve Blake came back with a runner in the lane and the Gaels failed to score on consecutive possessions. Blake hit another runner two minutes later in what ultimately was an 8-2 surge for the Terps.

Maryland's lead ballooned to 21 points in the opening minutes of the second half. Dixon hit a 3-pointer with 18:31 elapsed, then Morris capped what was a 10-2 run overall with a fastbreak dunk and a layup off an assist from Dixon.

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