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Smith, Maryland falter, then fall, to Georgia Tech

ATLANTA — ATLANTA -- The Maryland Terrapins had been living on the edge for a couple of weeks, blowing leads but not games. It happened again yesterday, here against Georgia Tech, and this time they fell off. When they landed, it wasn't on their feet.

Leading the No. 21 Yellow Jackets by 11 points late in the first half and by five midway through the second half, fifth-ranked Maryland saw their lead disappear, their All-American foul out and their six-game winning streak end with a 100-91 defeat at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

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"Georgia Tech has done a great job since James Forrest went out with a broken hand," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, alluding to the Yellow Jackets' three consecutive wins since losing the the All-American forward. "I can understand what Georgia Tech is doing. They've got some good players and they've all stepped up. We couldn't stop them in the second half."

Though All-American Travis Best led Georgia Tech (15-6, 6-3 in the ACC) with a game-high 30 points, half of them at the free-throw line, it was freshman Matt Harpring who did the most damage. The 6-foot-7 forward scored a career-high 28 points against four different defenders, while pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds. Duane Simpkins led Maryland (17-4, 7-2 in the ACC) with a career-high 24.

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"When James is in there, it's usually me, James and Drew [Barry] as the three options," said Best, who has scored 86 points in Forrest's absence. "Now everyone is more conscious that they have a bigger role to play."

Especially Harpring, who played all 40 minutes for Georgia Tech, which extended its home winning streak to 15. He made eight of 10 shots from the field, including all four of his three-pointers, as well as eight of nine free throws. Even on one of his rare misses, Harpring followed it up, made a layup and was fouled.

"Harping had a great game," Williams said of player who could succeed Maryland's Joe Smith as the ACC's Rookie of the Year. "He gets open and he doesn't do things he can't do. He did a great job."

Williams went through three players before finally putting Keith Booth on Harpring. But in doing so, he also took one of his best rebounders away from the basket and left Smith alone inside. It eventually caught up with Smith, who picked up all five of his fouls in the second half and fouled out with 3:24 remaining.

"Even when Joe fouled out, we had a chance to win," said Booth, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. "But we couldn't stop them."

Williams felt that the game had gotten away from his team long before Smith took a seat for good, watching the last few minutes with a towel draped over his hand. It happened in the last two minutes of the first half, when Maryland saw leads of 40-29 and 42-32 cut to four, 42-38, by halftime.

"That's where we lost the game," said Williams. "We turned it over a couple of times. It gave Georgia Tech confidence. Even though they didn't catch up, they were a very confident team in the second half."

After Smith opened the second half with a foul-line jumper, back-to-back three-pointers by Best and Harpring helped the Yellow Jackets tie the game at 44. Still, after falling behind 58-57 on a pair of free throws by Best with 12:22 to go, the Terps seemed to regain control with six straight points. A three-point play by Johnny Rhodes made it 66-61 with 10:33 left.

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But the Yellow Jackets scored on 21 of their last 23 possessions, including 17 straight in one stretch. They made nine of their last 14 shots from the field and, even when they missed, made follows or were fouled. They hit 15 straight free throws and 19 out of 24 over the final 6:35. Georgia Tech shot 32 of 39 from the line, including a career-high 15 of 16 by Best and scored an ACC-school-record 62 points in the second half.

"I'm not going to blame it on officiating, but it gets frustrating," said Simpkins, who contributed to Best's shooting six of 19 from the field. "You're playing good defense for 30 seconds and then you hear a whistle. He [Best] does the same things that we do, and it's not a foul. But he's worked himself up to a position where he gets a lot of calls."

Smith was not afforded the same privilege, at least not yesterday. Though the 6-10 sophomore never got close to the kind of flow he was in during Wednesday's 29-point, 21-rebound, seven-block performance against Virginia, he got banged on a few shots in the first half. His last three fouls came in a little over three minutes, with the third and fourth coming within a little over a minute of one another.

"I put myself in a bad position when I picked up my third foul, and the fourth came right after it," said Smith, who finished with 14 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots. "I couldn't play as aggressively as I wanted to."

When Booth was called for fouling Best on the ensuing possession -- it appeared that Booth had gotten a hand on the ball to force a jump -- Williams went a little ballistic. He yelled plaintively at the officials, "We get no respect. We're a good basketball team."

The loss cost the Terps a share of first place in the league with North Carolina, which will likely come into Cole Field House on Tuesday night as the No. 1 team in the country. Williams knew that, after winning a couple of games they could have lost, the Terps lost a game they could have -- should have -- won.

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"We got caught," he said.

That happens when you live on the edge, especially in a fast lane called the ACC.

NOTES: Hipp, who needed one point to reach 1,000 for his career but failed to score against Virginia, reached that mark with 14 yesterday . . . . Smith now needs four points to become the first sophomore in Maryland history to reach 1,000, as well as get 500 rebounds. . . . Best tied Craig Neal as Georgia Tech's all-time assist leader.

ACC STANDINGS

Team .. .. .. .. .. ACC .. .. .. .. Overall

North Carolina ... 8-1 .. .. .. ... 18-1

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Maryland .. .. ... 7-2 .. .. .. ... 17-4

Georgia Tech .. .. 6-3 .. .. .. ... 15-6

Virginia .. .. ... 6-3 .. .. .. ... 12-7

Wake Forest .. ... 5-3 .. .. .. ... 14-4

Clemson .. ... ... 3-6 .. .. .. ... 12-6

Florida State .. .. 3-6 .. .. .. .. 10-8

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N.C. State .. .. .. 2-7 .. .. .. .. 10-9

Duke .. .. .. .. .. 0-9 .. .. .. .. 10-11

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Navy 84, Lafayette 70

UMBC 62, Liberty 59

Coppin State 72, Howard 63

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Iona 99, Loyola 80

Mount St. Mary's 81, R. Morris 62

Miami 67, Georgetown 61

Kansas 91, Iowa State 71


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