Terps, Minutemen hardly need introductions today


WICHITA, Kan. -- For Maryland and Massachusetts, today's NCAA Midwest Regional second-round game represents a rematch from earlier this season.

For Joe Smith of the Terrapins and Marcus Camby of the Minutemen, it represents a matchup between two of the country's best freshman centers.

As for former Dunbar stars and first cousins Keith Booth and Donta Bright, it represents the second time they have met in less than three months.

So it is only fitting that the winner of the game at the Kansas Coliseum will get to go to -- where else? -- Reunion Arena in Dallas for next week's Sweet 16s.

"We're playing a team that we know very well, and so are they," Massachusetts coach John Calipari said yesterday. "A lot of the kids have played together, a couple went to high school together. It's a team we have a lot of respect for."

It's also a team that second-seeded, eighth-ranked Massachusetts (28-6) beat, 94-80, in late December. The final score in the championship game of the Abdow's Holiday Classic at the Springfield (Mass.) Civic Center was somewhat deceptive -- Maryland trailed by only six with 7:22 to play, but it resulted in the most one-sided loss of the season for the 10th-seeded Terps (17-11).

"When you get to the NCAA tournament, it's always a new season," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "It's different in the way you prepare for them the second time. Our players have been through a tough ACC season. When we played them the last time, that had been our toughest game."

Said sophomore forward Exree Hipp: "We have to play a smarter game than we did the first time. We know the things we have to do to win. We have to get the ball inside. We have to hit the boards. We have to play much better defense. We have to focus on the things we didn't do the last time."

Not only will Maryland have to play better than it did back in December, but the Terps also will probably have to raise the level of their game from Thursday's 74-66 opening-round victory over seventh-seeded Saint Louis.

But the outcome today could be different than the game in December if Massachusetts, which tends to play in streaks, doesn't come out sharp, and if both Smith and Booth stay out of foul trouble. In the first meeting, the Minutemen had a pair of 12-0 runs when Smith and Booth were off the court because of fouls.

"I expect a difficult game," said junior forward Lou Roe, who scored 30 points against Maryland in December. "They've been through a whole ACC season. They have great chemistry. Joe Smith is playing out of his mind. I think it's going to be a rough one."

Said Calipari, whose Minutemen lost last year in the second round to Virginia, "It could be the best second-round game in the tournament."

The matchup of Maryland's Smith and Massachusetts' Camby is certainly one CBS will be interested in showing, and a few NBA scouts might be interested in watching. The 6-foot-10, 218-pound Smith has been a near unanimous choice for the country's top freshman this season, and the 6-11, 225-pound Camby is one of the best defensive players among the freshman big men.

Camby got the better of Smith in last year's Capital Classic, with a 19-point, 19-rebound game. But Smith came back with an impressive 22-point, seven-rebound performance in their first collegiate matchup. Camby, in his second game back after arthroscopic knee surgery, was limited to nine points, five rebounds and four blocked shots in 25 minutes off the bench.

"He's going to be ready, and I'm going to be ready," said Camby, who is still coming off the bench for the Minutemen but is expected to play a great deal today as long as he stays out of foul trouble. "I want to try to use my height and quickness to make him change his shot. I want to make the other guys [on Maryland] prove they can play."

Said Williams, "It'll be close to an ACC situation for Joe. Roe and Camby are at the same level with the players Duke and Carolina throw at you. Joe's really got to be great distributing the ball if he can't get his shot off. But he's made that kind of adjustment against Duke."

As for Booth and Bright, they too will have to make their own adjustment from that first on-court reunion. There was so much talk about it before the game, and a somewhat strange feeling for them during it, that both struggled. It might have been their respective worst games of the season.

"It's not going to be Booth vs. Bright, it's going to be Maryland vs. Massachusetts," said Booth, who missed all five shots, scored two points and fouled out after playing a season-low 20 minutes. "The first time, maybe we got caught up in it a little and tried to do too much. But he played better than me because his team won."

Asked if he's spoken to Bright since getting here, Booth said, "Nah, we'll see each other this summer. I just don't want to hear how he went 2-0 against me."

Bright, who made one of four shots and scored only four points in the first game, didn't seem to want to get involved in the Dunbar and family ties to this game.

"I'm excited about playing," said Bright. "Not because it's Maryland. Not because it's my cousin. I'd be motivated whoever we were playing."

It's a little bigger than that. Certainly bigger than the game back in December. Just call it the reunion to go to Reunion.

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad