- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Terence Morris lifted the hopes of Maryland basketball fans Saturday when he scored the game's first six points in the ACC tournament semifinal against Duke.

Maybe, fans thought, after four years of solid but less-than-spectacular play the talented senior power forward would finally break loose offensively in the final postseason of his college career. Alas, Morris would score only six more points the rest of the game as Duke won in the final seconds.

It has been that kind of year for Morris. He has excelled defensively and on the boards, but his scoring really hasn't got on track.

"We need him to score," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "There is no doubt about it but we can win if he doesn't score."

The Terps took a charter flight to Boise, Idaho, yesterday afternoon in preparation for tomorrow's NCAA tournament first round game with George Mason. Maryland, seeded third seed in the West Region, will face the 13th-seeded Patriots, who flew out on a commercial flight yesterday morning. Both teams will practice today at Boise State Pavilion.

Morris is averaging 12.8 points this season, nearly three points less than he did as a junior. After earning first-team All-ACC as a sophomore, Morris slid to the second team as a junior and was a third-team selection this year. He shot just 36 percent over the last five games this season and made just three of his last 17 3-point attempts.

"This is my last go around," said Morris. "It's either win or lose. You don't want to go out as a loser. You want to go out as a winner."

The 6-foot-9 forward is expected to go on to a lucrative NBA career when his college days end, but he realizes that many will measure his career's success by his team's showing in this tournament.

Morris battled confidence problems as well as shooting woes this season and his tendency to pass up good shots is a detriment to the team.

Morris may be the most talented player on the team, but it is Juan Dixon who is the undisputed leader and the go-to guy. It's a role Morris never asked for nor wanted.

"What you see is what you get [with Morris]," said ESPN analyst Len Elmore, who starred for Maryland in the early 1970s. "There were expectations last year of him being that kind of player, and we found out he wasn't. He will be a good pro. He'll be a second or third option, and go about his business. He won't have to extend leadership. That's just part of his personality."

Even with the scoring dropoff, Morris has been important in the late-season surge by the Terps (21-10). They won their final six games of the regular season. The Frederick, Md., native leads the team with a 7.7 rebounding average and, not only has he played inspired defense, but he also has displayed crisp interior passing skills.

The laid-back Morris said it has been a "roller coaster ride" for both he and the team. His personal low point this season was also the team's low point. He scored eight points and took only six shots against Florida State and badly missed an open 3-pointer that would have given Maryland the lead in the final moments. The Seminoles' victory was the Terps fifth loss in six games.

"I do pass up a lot of shots, I just like to get everybody involved," said Morris, who leads the team in blocks, averaging 2.4. "Sometimes I need to step up and be aggressive for the good of the team. Right now, other guys are stepping up. We may need some more offensive production out of me [in the postseason]."

There have been recent signs of Morris taking on a more physical and less finesse role. He had 13 points and 12 rebounds in the upset win at Duke earlier this month. He stood up to a grinding Oklahoma team, played well despite scoring just six points and left the Cole Field House floor with a bloody lip as a reminder of that physical play. In the regular season finale against Virginia, he totaled 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots as the Terps posted a 35-point win.

Maryland has plenty of weapons besides Morris. The Terps use the inside power of center Lonny Baxter, the slashing of Dixon and a deep explosive bench. That combination has many believing the program could be on its way to its first Final Four.

However, Morris may be the key if the Terps plan to reach Minneapolis, site of the Final Four. He creates matchup problems for teams he is quicker than most power forwards and bigger than most small forwards when Williams moves him to the wing. Morris' lack of scoring punch doesn't bother his coach because Williams believes his senior's time will come.

"He is being aggressive enough," Williams said. "We're playing well right now and it's just a matter of who gets the good shots in our offense, whether it's Juan, Lonny or Terence."

Notes The Terps are seeded third or higher in the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive season … This is Maryland's fourth trip to the West Region in seven seasons. They have reached the Sweet 16 in two of those trips west. The most recent visit west was in 1998 when the Terps were seeded fourth, and beat Utah State and Illinois before losing to top seed Arizona … Maryland has made just two Elite Eight appearances, in 1973 and '75, both under Lefty Driesell. Driesell's Georgia State is the West's 11th seed and plays No. 6 Wisconsin in Boise for the right to play the Maryland-George Mason winner.


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