Houston may have had the nation’s leading scorer and wonderful complement. Foe Maryland simply had more of them.
The Cougars’ Aubrey Coleman scored his season average, 26 points, and teammate Kelvin Lewis added 24, but seven Terrapins offset their efforts in an 89-77 shootout during the final game of Friday’s NCAA regional basketball tournament at the Arena.
The victory puts Maryland into a Midwest Regional second-round game against Michigan State on Sunday at 11:40 a.m.
Maryland had five players in or near double figures. That, coupled with a 50-29 rebounding advantage and better free-throw shooting percentage, enabled the team to take control of the game for good in the final 16 minutes.
At the heart of it was 6-foot-10, 260-pound freshman Jordan Williams. He had career highs with 17 rebounds and 21 points as the point of emphasis against the Cougars.
“We thought we could go after Houston,” coach Gary Williams said. “They had been outrebounded per game for the year so we really stressed that. We understood there were points to be scored on the offensive glass.”
Houston, behind Coleman’s 16 first-half points, had led from the outset and for much of the first half before Maryland went on a 22-9 tear to lead 39-31 with 1 minute, 6 seconds left and threatened to pull away for good.
While Maryland’s points were spread around, none was more vital than those scored by Williams. He had eight points during the run, mostly the product of offensive boards, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds at intermission.
“Before every game my goal is to try and get every rebound,” Williams said. “I know I’m not going to do that, but if I can just get a rebound the points will come.”
The Cougars hit two 3-pointers in the half’s final minute, including Adam Brown’s rumbling, stumbling 34-footer at the buzzer to pare the Terps’ lead to a basket.
Before that Coleman got it done inside and out, although at times in the half it seemed he tried to do too much. Down the stretch as more Cougars got involved they got back in the game.
Maryland, however, jumped to a 55-44 advantage in the first 3:15 of the second half, and after Lewis cut the lead to six points, pulled away with its balanced attack. Senior Landon Milbourne finished with 19 points and Greivis Vasquez scored 12 of his 16 in the second half.
“If Greivis would have shot better, he would have had an unbelievable game because he got people involved,” Gary Williams said. “He’s had a lot to do with the success of Jordan.”
Houston coach Tom Penders said if the Cougars had shot free throws better they might have hung around longer.
“We had to be perfect to stay with them,” he said. “I thought it was a great exhibition of super athletes playing their hearts out.
“Maryland is a great team with a great coach and our kids played totally fearlessly.”