- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009

KANSAS CITY, Mo. | Every now and then this season, Maryland found itself on the wrong end of a talent gap far too wide to overcome.

Those moments led to ugly, unsightly games that began far from the Terrapins’ control and quickly careened toward disaster.

It was easy to forget those days as Maryland performed the improbable, upending a few top-10 teams and making a surprising run to the NCAA tournament. And chances are, most of those games will fade from memory as years pass and history treats the Terps’ overachieving bunch with kindness.

Still, a last impression counts, too — and Maryland’s was anything but glorious.

On the opposite end of a grumpy Memphis team determined to move past an ugly postseason opener, the Terps absorbed an 89-70 body blow Saturday in the second round at Sprint Center, providing a sour finish to an improbable season.

“We can’t do anything if we don’t play defense,” forward Landon Milbourne said. “That’s not how we usually play. I don’t think we were ready to play today.”

Greivis Vasquez scored 18 points for the 10th-seeded Terps (21-14), who lost their third consecutive second-round game. But it was hardly an easy day for the junior guard, who picked up a technical foul for apparently jawing at an official in the middle of the second half. Vasquez also had every mistake he made cheered demonstrably by Memphis fans a day after he questioned the Tigers’ quality.

“I’m pretty sure they heard about it or they read about it,” guard Adrian Bowie said. “They probably came out harder than they normally would. But we have to play hard as well. We had to come out and match them because they’re a great team.”

Tyreke Evans had 19 points for second-seeded Tigers (33-3), who advanced to a West regional semifinal against the winner of Sunday’s Missouri-Marquette game and moved within a victory of their fourth consecutive Elite Eight appearance.

Consider it a safe bet for Memphis to achieve that feat if it shoots as well as it did against Maryland. While the Terps can hardly consider their performance terribly respectable, Saturday was as much about the Tigers’ dominance and superior athleticism as anything else.

Just two days after Memphis slogged through a scare against Cal State Northridge, the Tigers played like a team destined to land in Detroit next month for the Final Four and wasted little time dispensing with the Terps.

Maryland held a 4-2 lead, but less than four minutes later, Evans made a fast-break layup to give Memphis a 17-4 edge.

It was, at that point, effectively over — a more blatant early pounding than the Terps took against Georgetown or Duke or Clemson. Sure, Maryland would close within eight or nine from time to time, but the Tigers always summoned a reply.

Usually, it was a 3-pointer. Memphis had just one guy capable of shredding a zone in the first round and no shortage of options to do the same against the Terps. The Tigers were 8-for-11 from long range in the first half, with Doneal Mack and Roburt

Sallie more than effective at finding the weakness in Maryland’s 2-3 as Memphis built a 53-33 lead at halftime.

“I don’t think they ever shot the ball like that the whole year,” guard Eric Hayes said. “That’s one of those things where you have to give them credit for stepping up and making a lot of 3s. We didn’t do the best job of getting out on guys.”

The lingering questions had little to do with what happened on the floor. Would Memphis fans taunt Maryland over Vasquez’s questioning of Conference USA? They did with a mocking “A-C-C” chant in the closing minutes.

Would Maryland fans respond in kind? Naturally, doling out rather than absorbing an “S-A-T” chant for perhaps the first time ever.

Would the Terps face a woodshedding quite like the 105-70 second-round loss to UCLA that turned into an alley-oop-fest? Not so much.

Instead, Maryland simply left with a loss, an unharmonious conclusion that was hardly the impression it wanted to leave.

“I don’t think we came into the game with the same intensity as we played against Cal,” guard Sean Mosley said. “It’s tough to take a loss like this. Down the stretch, everything was going good for us, with the ACC tournament and Cal. It just seemed they were prepared and they were ready to play.”



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