- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

CORAL GABLES, Fla. | The Maryland basketball team came far, both figuratively and literally, to dominate Miami in a traditionally difficult setting.

Adrian Bowie was scoring. Greivis Vasquez wasn’t chattering at the crowd. And the Terrapins seemed like a good bet to collect a surprising victory.

Well, until the last 10 minutes anyway.

It was especially costly for Maryland, which frittered away a 17-point lead in the second half on the way to a 62-60 loss to Miami at BankUnited Center.

Even though Bowie scored a career-high 23 points, Miami perimeter assassin Jack McClinton (18 points) made a 3-pointer with 29.2 seconds left to deny Maryland a victory in its first true road game of the season.

“If one thing lost the game, it was we lost our aggressiveness on the defensive end of the court,” said coach Gary Williams, whose team was outscored 22-6 in the final nine minutes. “We have up way too many 3s in those situations. We talked about it in every timeout, and we just couldn’t get any stops.”

Or any offense, for that matter. The Terps (12-4, 1-1 ACC) shriveled offensively once forced in to their halfcourt set, shooting 2-for-11 over the final 10 minutes.

The final two shots went to Vasquez, who profanely and defiantly bantered with fans during Saturday’s defeat of Georgia Tech in College Park. He missed a 3-pointer with five seconds left and, after the carom went off Miami out of bounds, clanked a potential game-winner at the buzzer from nearly the same spot.

“I take responsibility,” Vasquez said. “I was open. I should have made it. It’s hard when they’re double-teaming you and all of that. We just let them hit those 3s. We just got to step up in crucial times, and it’s got to be more than one guy. I can’t do it by myself, and Eric Hayes can’t do it by himself, and Adrian Bowie, he cannot do it by himself. We need guys to step up, and that’s the reality.”

It didn’t occur last night, not when Bowie and Vasquez combined for 19 of Maryland’s 25 points after halftime. Yet despite the lack of balance, for much of the night the Hurricanes (13-3, 2-1) didn’t look capable of improving to 6-1 against Maryland since joining the ACC, including 4-0 at home.

Still, the Terps bottled up Miami’s interior options for much of the night, doubling up the Hurricanes 32-16 in the paint. The development so vexed Miami coach Frank Haith that he emerged from the locker room after halftime without his jacket and tie.

By the time Maryland bumped its lead to 17, the Hurricanes had all but abandoned any semblance of an inside game. That proved wise since the Terps’ once-formidable defense wavered as Miami wore down Maryland’s weary starters and shot 6-for-7 on its 3-point attempts in the final nine minutes.

“They had wide-open shots,” Bowie said. “We didn’t get back on defense, and we didn’t drop on defense. They were supposed to knock those down.”

The offense wasn’t any better. With Bowie in foul trouble, the Terps were forced to play without their best option for the night. That left Vasquez an easy target to be doubled and rendered Maryland inert over the final 10 minutes.

“We tried to put some pressure on them to try to speed them up a little bit,” McClinton said. “I think that actually ended up helping us.”

The expected slowdown with a double-digit lead also didn’t help the Terps, who flourished when they created transition opportunities in the first half. By the closing minutes, those opportunities vanished.

“I’m not really sure why,” forward Landon Milbourne said. “We just didn’t move the same. We were kind of sluggish out there. That’s what Coach was saying. We just have to learn how to keep playing hard, no matter what. Regardless of whether we’re tired, the game’s not over, so we have to push through.”

The Terps failed to do so. James Dews finally gave Miami its first lead at 59-58, and Maryland’s only response was Hayes’ two foul shots with 41.4 seconds left.

Still, McClinton was there to work his usual magic. In the process, he dealt a crushing loss to a Maryland team that came so close to remaining unbeaten in the ACC.

“It’s brutal. I wish we could have played the whole 40 minutes, and it would have been a phenomenal win,” Maryland forward Dave Neal said. “Things didn’t go our way, and we didn’t execute our offense the way we did in the first 30 minutes. They got hot, we didn’t play as good a defense and they got the win.”

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