Nov. 14, 1997
No. 23 South Carolina Defeats No. 8 Maryland, 76-72 in Overtime
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Melvin Watson's 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in overtime gave the South Carolina a 76-72 win over Maryland on Friday night in the first game of the Black Coaches Association Classic.
Ranked in the preseason for the first time since The Associated Press started its preseason poll in 1982-83, the Gamecocks (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) are beginning their most highly anticipated season in more than two decades.
Redshirt freshman Antonio Grant, who missed all but five games last year and the entire preseason this year because of injuries, had a career-best 16.
Watson had 17 points after missing his first six shots of the game. He hit only two shots in the final 24 minutes -- the 3-pointer that won it and a banked 3-pointer from the top of the key that forced overtime.
The Terrapins, trying to return to the NCAA Tournament for a school-record fifth straight season, were led by Laron Profit's 24 points, 19 of them after halftime.
The game was played with a 40-second shot clock instead of 35 and with four quarters instead of two halves, experimental rules.
Profit helped rally Maryland (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, unranked AP) late in regulation and again in overtime, and his 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in overtime gave the Terrapins a 72-71 lead. But after Watson's 3-pointer, Profit fired an air ball with three seconds left.
"It isn't anybody's fault but mine," said Profit, who needed eight stitches to close a cut above his left eye. "We had perfect execution. Just missed. That's the bottom line. You take the last shot, you've got to make it. You just can't miss that shot."
The Gamecocks did get off to a slow start in the season opener for both teams. But this time it lasted only 10 minutes, not 10 games, and they were able to overcome an early 12-point Maryland lead.
Watson, South Carolina's talented point guard, had seven turnovers and just one assist while missing his first six shots. But he stepped up when the Gamecocks needed him, and his poor performance didn't shake coach Eddie Fogler's confidence in him.
"I have all the confidence in the world in Melvin Watson," Fogler said. "I think he's terrific."
Maryland's fast start included a 10-0 run in the first quarter and an outstanding play by Profit. With time winding down in the quarter, Profit blocked a shot by Watson, grabbed the loose ball and hit a three-quarters-court shot at the first quarter buzzer for a 20-9 lead.
It was 37-37 at halftime, but the Terrapins used a 16-4 run to take a 57-48 lead with 7:17 remaining. South Carolina responded with a 10-0 surge, with McKie hitting two 3-pointers, to take a 58-57 lead with 3:59 left.
Profit dunked a rebound and followed that with a 3-pointer to put Maryland up 62-58, but McKie hit one of two free throws and Watson banked in a long 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game with 59 seconds remaining.
In overtime, South Carolina took a 68-64 lead, its biggest of the game, with 1:59 left. Profit hit a 3-pointer and another basket to tie the game at 69-all with 1:16 left, but William Gallman scored inside again with 50 seconds remaining to put the Gamecocks on top.
Profit's 3-pointer gave the lead back to Maryland, but only until Watson swished the winner from the top of the key.
"This really hurts right now," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "You want to win every game you play, especially against a good team. But at the same time, to our players, they should feel like we can play at this level. That wasn't a fluke out there."