(13) UTEP 83

(24-8, 13-5 WAC)

(4) Maryland 86

(20-11, 7-9 ACC)

    12:40 PM ET, March 18, 2004

    Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

    1 2 T
    #13UTEP 42 4183
    #4MD 47 3986

    Terps escape with win over UTEP

    DENVER (AP) -- Maryland's young Terrapins came through like veterans.

    Chris McCray scored 19 points, including two free throws with 13.6 seconds left, and Maryland held off Texas-El Paso 86-83 Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

    "We haven't put teams away this year given the opportunity," Maryland coach Gary Williams said of his team that features four sophomores in the starting lineup.

    Dick Vitale's Tourney Take
    What a great game! You've gotta salute the kids from El Paso for their remarkable effort. They battled hard against the ACC tournament champions but fell just short at the end. Maryland guard John Gilchrist made some big plays in crunch time. He gives the Terps leadership and constantly proves that he wants the ball when the game is on the line. The Terps were 8-of-18 from the 3-point line, but they won the game down the stretch with big free throws. The big question for UTEP is this: Will coach Billy Gillespie move on? His star is shining brighter, baby!
    More on Thursday's Games

    "I can't remember a team that has been in more pressure situations down the stretch because of that."

    The Terrapins (20-11) came into the tournament off their biggest win of the season -- an overtime victory over Duke in the ACC tournament title game. A letdown was possible against the Miners, but Maryland hung on for its sixth straight win.

    And they can thank their free-throwing shooting, which has been shaky all season.

    Maryland, the 2002 national champions, hit eight of its last nine free throws, including 4-for-4 in the final minute. D.J. Strawberry made two foul shots with 47 seconds left, putting the Terps, a team that shot only 63 percent from the line this season, ahead 84-81.

    "When I'm in that situation, I have to make my free throws for my teammates," McCray said. "If we hadn't made those free throws in the last minute, we probably would have lost the game."

    UTEP coach Billy Gillispie noted that Maryland began improving at the line during the ACC tournament.

    "When it counted the most, they made them all," he said. "Give those guys credit."

    Maryland, the fourth seed in the Phoenix Regional, will meet defending champion Syracuse game in the second round Saturday.

    John Gilchrist added 18 points and Jamar Smith 14 for the Terrapins.

    UTEP (24-8), the 13th seed, was led by John Tofi with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Omar Thomas with 15 points.

    Maryland won despite squandering an 11-point lead in the second half.

    "We are not the veteran, savvy team that we were the last three years," Williams said. "Playing with a lead requires a lot of experience. You play aggressive, but if you are too aggressive then you shoot the ball too quick and don't use the clock and give the other team chances to score."

    McCray's 3-point basket put Maryland up 64-53 with 12:42 remaining, but the smaller, quicker Miners battled back, using a 13-2 run to produce a 72-72 tie with 4:03 left. Filiberto Rivera had five points during the surge.

    Two free throws by Thomas gave UTEP a 76-75 lead with 2:45 to go, but Gilchrist followed with a 3-pointer. After Tofi hit a layup, Gilchrist made a three-point play with 2:08 left to make it 81-78. UTEP's Chris Craig tied it moments later with a 3-pointer.

    Smith made one free throw and, after a UTEP turnover, Strawberry made his two clutch foul shots.

    Thomas made it 84-83 with two free throws with 35 seconds left. After McCray's free throws, Craig's 3-point attempt was partially blocked.

    "We could have had a better look," Gillispie said, "but there's nobody I'd rather have taking the shot. We wanted Chris to have it in his hands."

    Smith and McCray each scored nine points in the first half to lead Maryland to a 47-42 halftime lead.

    UTEP, in the tournament for the first time since 1992, hit its first three shots for a 6-3 lead. The teams traded baskets before Maryland ran off seven straight points, including five by Nik Caner-Medley, to give the Terrapins a 29-23 lead midway through the half.

    Smith's turnaround jumper and Gilchrist's fastbreak slam dunk after a turnover put Maryland up 35-28 with 7:28 left in the half.

    Rivera's 3-pointer capped a 7-0 flurry for UTEP that made it 35-35.

    Maryland then used a 9-0 run, including McCray's layup following a steal by Travis Garrison, for a 47-38 lead with 1:27 remaining.

    Miners starting forward Roy Smallwood fouled out midway through the second half.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press



    » Mar 18, 2004 @MD 86, UTEP 83Recap