Hipp scores with another Terps dream

THE BALTIMORE SUN

COLLEGE PARK -- Exree Hipp was still sitting around Cole Field House early yesterday morning, talking about his dream of a couple of days before. Call it another of Exree's visions.

Last season, he predicted that Maryland would reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament five months before it happened. This time, he envisioned the final score on Tuesday night's game against top-ranked North Carolina.

"I fell asleep someplace I wasn't supposed to," Hipp said with a smile. "The game was over and the score was Maryland 85, North Carolina 75. Then somebody shut a door and I woke up. I wrote it down in my notebook and then balled up the piece of paper. I still have it in my room."

Hipp was off by a few points -- it was Maryland 86, North Carolina 73. But after starting out as a nightmare for the eighth-ranked Terrapins, Hipp's dream turned into reality at crazy Cole Field House.

The victory was the first for Maryland over the Tar Heels in three years, the first for the Terps over a No. 1 team since 1986, when they gave Dean Smith the first defeat in the building named after him.

"It's the biggest win we've had since I've been here," said Hipp, a junior.

It was the biggest win for Maryland since Gary Williams returned to coach his alma mater six years ago. Though there were three victories over the Tar Heels the first three seasons, including a sweep in 1989-90, none matched this one. Neither did the upset over Massachusetts in last year's NCAA tournament, Williams said yesterday.

"The Massachusetts game was big at the time, because it put us in the Sweet 16s," he said. "But it wasn't the same because of Carolina's history of dominance against Maryland over the years and because it tied us for first place in the league and because they were No. 1. All those factors make it a little different."

It gave Maryland (18-4) a share of first place with North Carolina (18-2) in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 8-2 records. It preserved the team's unbeaten record at home this season. Most significantly, it gave the Terps the knowledge -- instead of just the feeling -- that they could beat any team in the country.

It set up the Terps to have their first unbeaten season at Cole Field House since 1979-80, with Florida State coming in Saturday followed by North Carolina State and Clemson. It likely will push them back into the top five in next week's rankings.

It also quieted those who doubted whether Maryland could beat a Top 10 team.

"If there are any [doubters] left, they can keep talking because all we're going to do is keep winning," said junior point guard Duane Simpkins, who silenced his own critics with a sparkling 21-point, seven-assist performance.

Simpkins kept the Terps from getting badly blown out in the early moments as North Carolina built a 30-16 lead in the first 11 minutes. His three-pointer -- which hit the front rim and the backboard before dropping through -- started Maryland on the long road back.

"It was definitely a shot we needed at the time," said Simpkins.

Fellow junior guard Johnny Rhodes brought Maryland storming back, fueling a 20-2 run with 11 straight points in one stretch that gave the Terps the lead for good. Rhodes also scored 21 points, to go along with nine rebounds and some terrific defense.

Sophomores Joe Smith and Keith Booth did most of the dirty work, shutting down Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse for most of the second half. Smith had 14 points and 16 rebounds. After first-half foul trouble, Booth finished with 13 points and five rebounds.

And the Maryland bench went five deep and helped run the Tar Heels ragged late in the first half. It was junior forward Mario Lucas getting five points, three rebounds and a blocked shot. It was freshman guard Sarunas Jasikevicius getting a block, a steal and a couple of assists.

"Everybody did their job, everybody was in the flow," said Rhodes.

Asked what the victory meant, Rhodes said, "It means we've done something we hadn't done since we've been here -- beat Carolina."

Said Booth: "It shows that we can play with anybody in the country."

And it shows that Hipp, who promised to make no predictions this season about how far the Terps will go, might be a sought-after prognosticator once again.

Someone asked the 6-foot-8 forward if he thinks he might have a similar dream about the outcome of this year's ACC tournament, or NCAA tournament.

"I'll let you know," he said.

UMASS RENEWAL SET

The growing rivalry between Maryland and Massachusetts, which has seen the teams meet three times in the past two seasons, will continue next season. The Terrapins and Minutemen will meet in a four-team tournament Dec. 2 and 3 at USAir Arena.

George Washington and Florida will meet in the other opening game, with the winners facing off the following day. The tournament will benefit the Children's Charity Foundation.

The rivalry not only features two of the nation's top teams, but also former Dunbar stars and first cousins Keith Booth of Maryland and Donta Bright of Massachusetts.

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