CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Everything seemed to be going Maryland's way against Miami last night. The Terps started off shooting their way to a 12-point halftime lead that grew to as many as 17 midway through the second half. The small crowd at BankUnited Center was mute.
Then it all fell apart.
For the second time in a week, Maryland lost a game it had seemingly put away, falling, 62-60. This might have not been as stunning as losing to Morgan State at home, but it hurt just as bad and certainly had more significance coming in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
A three-point shot by former Calvert Hall standout Jack McClinton with 24 seconds to play was the final dagger, giving the Hurricanes the lead. Two three-point shots by Greivis Vasquez in the final five seconds missed, the second one banging off the back rim at the buzzer.
"We played a great first half, really controlled the tempo," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "I don't think we were playing the same way early in the second half. They eventually got it to a point where they made some great shots that we couldn't stop. And we couldn't score."
It prevented Maryland (12-4, 1-1 ACC) from getting off to a 2-0 start in the ACC and winning for the first time in South Florida since Miami (13-3, 2-1) joined the league five years ago. It also wasted a career-high 23-point performance by sophomore guard Adrian Bowie.
McClinton led the Hurricanes with 18 points, and he hit several big shots late. Though there were no histrionics from Vasquez after his outburst at Comcast Center in Saturday's win over Georgia Tech, there were some pointed words for his teammates.
"We just weren't being tough as a team in the last minute," said Vasquez, who finished with 15 points. "I thought it was our game. When I shot the last shot, I thought it was going in. It was a tough game for us. It was hard because we had the lead the whole game."
But Vasquez said it was an improvement on Maryland's recent performances against Miami, including a 15-point loss here a year ago. And Williams, whose team will remain here until tomorrow before heading to Tallahassee to play Florida State on Saturday, tried to be upbeat as well.
"It was a pretty good effort," Williams said. "I've been there Saturday coming from behind Georgia Tech. They got us tonight. That's a tough loss. We'll see how we can come back against Florida State."
Williams agreed with the assessment that his team looked tentative late when it seemed as if no one aside from Vasquez even looked at the basket. Except for Vasquez and Bowie, whose foul trouble and eventual disqualification didn't help, no one on Maryland scored in double figures.
"I think it's fair to say that we were tentative," Williams said. "Adrian Bowie played great, but when he got in a little bit of foul trouble, that hurt us down the stretch. I had to sub him a couple of times because he had his fourth foul. We need everybody playing well. We're a team."
Midway through the second half, Maryland appeared to be on its way. Two three-pointers by Vasquez gave the Terps their largest lead at 52-35 with 12:30 left.
It seemed as if the Terps would take Miami's best punch when Landon Milbourne followed in a miss for a 58-51 lead with 2:45 remaining, but the Hurricanes kept firing their best shots. Especially McClinton, who hit a pair of threes in the final 1:37 to lift his team to its sixth straight win.
After two free throws by Eric Hayes with 41 seconds left put Maryland ahead 60-59, McClinton hit one of his patented rainbow threes for the game-winner. It was a play designed to go to the senior guard from White Marsh.
It capped what Miami coach Frank Haith said was the biggest comeback since the Hurricanes joined the ACC, and maybe when they were in the Big East.
"We were negative in the huddle, [but] Coach Haith always kept it positive in telling us that we were going to win that game," McClinton said. "We all went out there with one goal, and that was to win that basketball game."
play it again
Did you notice that...
* The Terps didn't get much bench help. Freshman guard Sean Mosley went scoreless in 19 minutes, and sophomore forward Dino Gregory had one rebound in 17 minutes.
* The lack of size and athleticism is starting to catch up with the Terps. It was obvious in the number of second, third and even fifth shots the Hurricanes got.
* Maryland's defense forced 10 turnovers in the first half but only two in the second half.
Maryland plays Saturday against Florida State (14-3, 1-1) at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee. The Seminoles are coming off a 78-65 win Tuesday at North Carolina State.
MARYLAND (12-4, 1-1)
@FLA. STATE (14-3, 1-1)
TV: Chs. 54, 5
Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM