- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 21, 2004

DENVER — Jamar Smith sat alone in his locker room following Maryland’s loss to Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA tournament yesterday. The Terrapins’ only senior was criticized when the Terps were struggling and their NCAA hopes were slipping away.

The 6-foot-8 junior college transfer had a solid game yesterday in his final college game, a 72-70 loss to Syracuse in the second round of the tournament. He finished with 16 points and eight rebounds and was a major part of the ill-fated comeback.

“It is hard to end it like this,” Smith said. “We have come back before. We just played hard and cut the lead as much as we can.”

Smith was able to get the ball and convert as Maryland finally broke Syracuse’s 2-3 match-up zone with penetration and passes. Afterward, the center took a minute to reflect on his two-year career as he starts to look for work in pro basketball.

“I know I did what I can do,” said Smith, who made the ACC’s all-tournament team while helping the Terps to their first title in 20 seasons. “We had a great season this year and a great season last year. It doesn’t feel like it’s over.”

Smith will play in the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational later this spring as he tries to impress scouts from the NBA and abroad. The center, who was a JUCO All-American at Allegany (Md.) Community College, may have proved enough to get that chance.

“That is one of the great stories,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “All of a sudden because he wasn’t getting double-doubles, [people were saying] it was his fault that we were losing in that stretch.

“He became a better player. He was able to put the ball on the floor a little bit. That move he made at the end of the game against UTEP. He had a sequence where he drove by a couple guys. I think Jamar has really put himself in a position where he can play somewhere next year. I wouldn’t sell him short. He is going to be interesting.”

Hakim the dream

Syracuse center Hakim Warrick finished with 26 points, but Williams said it looked like he could have had 40. The Orangemen center dominated the first 30 minutes of the game before Syracuse started a slowdown offense that seemed to disrupt his rhythm.

“I was getting tired,” the 6-8 junior said. “My legs were weary and it was tough.”

Warrick is a Chris Wilcox-type with refined inside moves and great leaping ability. The center, who is particularly effective in the middle of the Orangemen’s zone, clogged the middle as D.J. Strawberry attempted to tie the game in the final seconds.

“It was the longest couple of seconds I had in a long time,” he said. “We didn’t want to foul, and I think we did a good job contesting shots and not letting them get easy baskets. That’s what it came down to.”

Warrick picked up the slack for guard Gerry McNamara, who finished with 13 points on 2-for-11 shooting after scoring 43 in the Orangemen’s first-round win over BYU.

“It’s not like I didn’t have it,” McNamara said. “They played tough defense. When you come off a big game, I expected to be pounded. If they zero in on me like they did today, Hakim gets more opportunities and vice versa. Having two threats makes us that much tougher to beat.”

Chris McCray and Strawberry split time covering the sophomore guard full court most of the game and got help when he got the ball.

“Hakim was tremendous,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “When he gets down in the low post, he is very hard to guard.”

Extra points

Sixteen of Maryland’s 32 games were against ranked opponents. The Terps were 7-9 in those contests but had won four straight before yesterday. … Maryland’s 22 first-half points were a season low for an opening half. … The Orangemen are 16-1 when they lead at halftime.

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