Rising Terps sink in stretch, fall to Oklahoma, 88-85


OKLAHOMA CITY -- The University of Maryland basketball team seemingly had overcome several obstacles against Oklahoma last night here at the Myriad. But in the end, the Terrapins' error-filled beginning and early 13-point deficit ultimately did them in.

After the Terps stormed back to lead by six points with a little more than 16 minutes left and by four with a little over four minutes remaining, Maryland's foul trouble and its overall inexperience -- as well as some big plays by the Sooners -- resulted in an 88-85 nationally televised defeat.

With a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds, and possibly send it into overtime, sophomore forward Exree Hipp threw up an air ball on a three-point shot. Oklahoma's Ryan Minor stripped Maryland freshman Joe Smith as time ran out on the Terrapins.

"I thought we lost the game in the first five minutes, not in the last five minutes," Maryland coach Gary Williams said after his team's season-starting five-game winning streak was broken. "After the first 10 minutes we played very well."

Especially Smith. The sensational 6-foot-10 center put on another eye-popping performance, leading the Terps with 30 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. But Smith, nursing his fourth foul with 5:25 remaining, scored only one of those points during the final seven minutes.

While Smith might have played a little tentatively down the stretch, freshman forward Keith Booth didn't play at all. The former Dunbar star fouled out with 4:34 to play -- on an offensive foul that also negated his basket. Williams thought it turned the game in Oklahoma's favor.

"I thought that was the big play of the game," said Williams, whose team nearly pulled off the same kind of comeback it made in its season-opening victory against Georgetown. "Instead of getting a three-point play to give us the lead, they came back and scored. But we still had a chance to win it down the stretch. It's something that a young team can learn from."

Said Booth: "It was one of those bogus calls you don't get on the road. We didn't come out with a win, but we're going to take something from this game when it comes time to play in the ACC."

Despite committing a season-high 28 turnovers, including 19 in the first half, Maryland hung onto the ball fairly well down the stretch. The Terps turned the ball over only twice in the last 7 1/2 minutes, but they couldn't hit their shots.

With a chance to stretch a 75-71 lead, sophomore point guard Duane Simpkins missed the front end of a one-and-one. After the Sooners helped out by missing two straight one-and-ones themselves, Johnny Rhodes and Simpkins both missed three-point shots.

"We could have put the nail in the coffin," said Simpkins, who finished with 10 points, eight assists and five turnovers. "I take some responsibility for that. I missed the one-and-one and I had another shot I could have made. I just couldn't hit them."

While Maryland was missing some big shots, the Sooners were making them. Minor, a sophomore forward, made a number of them, finishing with a career-high 30 on 13 of 23 from the field. Senior center Jeff Webster scored 23 points and had seven rebounds.

"We knew coming in that we weren't going to outquick them or outjump them, but I thought our guys showed a lot of courage late in the game," said Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs, whose Sooners (3-1) got the crucial calls they didn't get in last year's loss to Maryland at Baltimore Arena. "We came up with some really big offensive plays."

Despite the missed chances, and the foul troubles to Booth and Smith, Maryland still managed to hang in there and recaptured the lead, 78-77, on a three-pointer by Hipp with a little more than four minutes left.

But the Sooners ran off six straight points to seemingly take control. Hipp hit another jumper to cut it back to three, 83-80, with 1:38 remaining. Still trailing by three, 88-85, after John Ontjes hit the front end of a one-and-one with 10.1 seconds left, Maryland had one more opportunity.

"We got the shot we wanted," Williams said of a three-pointer by Hipp.

Hipp had made three of 14 three-pointers coming in, but had made two of his first three last night.

After coming off a screen, the 6-7 forward had no Oklahoma defender within two feet of him and about 19 feet of air space to negotiate. His shot went about 18 feet.

"It felt good when I shot it, it just went short," said Hipp, who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. "I wouldn't hesitate to take that shot again."

Maryland, which had fallen behind 16-6 in the early going thanks to one field goal in five minutes, has plenty of time to work on the mistakes it made here last night.

Because of final exams, the Terps don't play again until they meet Towson State at Baltimore Arena Dec. 23. Williams will give his team a couple of days off, and then it's back to the practice court.

"After the first 10 minutes, we played very well," Williams said. "We couldn't overcome that start. We came close."

Depending on how you look at it, the Terps came up short -- by one foot or five minutes, take your pick.

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