Men's Basketball Falls to Top-Seeded Arizona
March 19, 1998
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - There's no stopping Arizona's scoring spurts.
Playing their closest game yet in the NCAA tournament, the top-seeded Wildcats turned their scoring on and off at will, getting a flurry of points when they needed them.
"One person starts hitting, another person starts hitting, then another person starts hitting, that's a spurt," Michael Dickerson said. "We just get some easy baskets."
Mike Bibby scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half as defending champion Arizona defeated fourth-seeded Maryland 87-79 Thursday night to advance to the West Regional final.
The Wildcats (30-4) will play No. 3 Utah on Saturday. The Utes were 65-62 winners over 10th-seeded West Virginia.
The Terrapins (21-11) were the only team in the field to beat two of the top seeds during the regular season, but victories over North Carolina and Kansas couldn't prepare them for Arizona's lethal transition game.
"Arizona is right there with all the top seeds that are left," Terps coach Gary Williams said. "Everyone talks about their guards, but Arizona has real good inside players."
After trailing by 14 early in the second half, Maryland closed within one with 10:32 remaining. Arizona simply kicked in its speedy offensive game, reeling off nine straight points to put down the Terps' threat.
"Why would we worry?" Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "We just said we've got to get tougher, step it up. This team is not a worrying group."
Dickerson had five points in the run that increased Arizona's lead to 66-56. The Terps never got closer than five the rest of the way.
"I don't know what that is," A.J. Bramlett said of Arizona's ability to flip its scoring switch on and off. "That's been the trademark of this team. We can be playing and playing and all of a sudden we go on a 20-2 run. Everybody starts working together and clicking together."
As usual, Bibby was Arizona's do-everything man. He hit five 3-pointers, made 7-of-9 free throws, grabbed five rebounds and got the ball into his teammates' hands when he wasn't shooting.
"If you make your first, coach lets you shoot it if you're open and I was open," he said.
Laron Profit led the Terps with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Even though they controlled the boards, 49-39, the Terps' inside game fell apart when 6-foot-10 Obinna Ekezie and 6-8 Rodney Elliott picked up their fourth fouls eight seconds apart, just as the Terps closed within one.
Elliott fouled out with 16 points at 8:19, and Ekezie did the same in the closing minutes. He finished with three points. Together, they were 7 of 21 shooting.
"Every time I touched the ball I felt like there were three people around me so I tried to kick the ball out, but we weren't making many outside shots," Ekezie said. "I wasn't able to get into any rhythm."
Besides losing their inside presence, the Terps didn't get help from Sarunas Jasikevicius, a 78 percent 3-point shooter in their first two victories. He didn't score until 15:41 of the second half and wound up with seven points, including one 3-pointer.
"They were swarming us with their defense," Ekezie said.
Arizona opened the second half with a flurry, running up a 14-point lead in the first four minutes. The Wildcats won their first two tournament games by an average of 36 points.
Maryland didn't make it that easy.
The Terps roared back with an 18-5 run even as Elliott and Ekezie earned their fourth fouls. Elliott stayed in and he and Terrell Stokes scored consecutive inside baskets as Maryland pulled within one with 10:32 remaining.
"We had the momentum going, but we had one letdown," Stokes said. "You can't let down. We didn't give them our best game."
Arizona harassed the Terps into 37 percent shooting.
"That's the thing that carries this team," Olson said. "We win with our defense."
Dickerson, who had just four points in the first half, awoke during Arizona's spurt that effectively put the game away. He and Miles Simon twice drove the middle against the Terps' weakened defense, then Dickerson completed a three-point play for a 10-point lead as the pro-Arizona crowd went wild.
Matt Kovarik's jumper drew Maryland within six with 3:35 remaining.
The All-America backcourt of Bibby and Simon hit consecutive 3-pointers and Dickerson added a free throw to push Arizona's lead to 13 points.
Simon, playing down the freeway from his hometown of Fullerton, had 18 points and Bennett Davison added 16 as all five Wildcat starters reached double figures.