Nothing but an overnight fancy: Maryland overpowers Houston 89-77 in NCAATourney
Hopefully, Aubrey Coleman, Tom Penders and the rest of the University of Houston's basketball contingent picked up some souvenirs in Spokane, Washington.
Because the memories of NCAA Tournament action itself will be very brief for the Cougars. No. 4 seed Maryland pushed aside the improbable 13th seed from the Bayou City 89-77 tonight in a first round game that was only really a contest for a half.
Houston ended one long streak of futility by getting here — making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 18 years. But another long run of misery continued — it's still been 26 years since UH has won a game in college basketball's showcase tournament.
Two steps forward, one smack into a brick wall.
It's fair to wonder how much Houston will get out of this brief taste of March. The program — and the school to a lesser extent — received more attention from the national press in the last six days than it has in years. But Penders, the coach that the Cougars administration was set to nudge out the door when the regular season ended with a 15-15 record, will be harder to get rid of now.
The 64-year-old Penders talked all week about how the most dangerous man in a fight is the crazy one who has nothing to lose, likening his Cougars to such a lunatic. It turns out that a co-champion from the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference with a do-it-all point guard, the size that upstarts like the Cougars lack and plenty of depth is awfully dangerous too.
Maryland (25-8) outlasted and overpowered Houston (19-16), getting a double-double from its 6-foot-10 center Jordan Williams (21 points, 15 rebounds) and an understated but effectively deadly stat-sheet-filling night from ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez (16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists). Houston actually had the better two-man show with Coleman (26 points on 9-for-21 shooting from the field, 7-for-13 unmarksmanship from the free-throw line) and Kelvin Lewis (24 points).
Unfortunately, college basketball isn't a 2-on-2 game. It's 5-on-5 and the Terrapins overwhelmed there. While Coleman and Lewis combined for almost 66 percent of Houston's points and only four other Cougars scored at all, Maryland received contributions from eight players. This particularly showed up on the boards as the taller Terrapins outrebounded Penders' four-guard scheme by an overwhelming 45-27 margin.
Any chance to negate the ACC power's brawn advantage was done in by Houston missing 12 of its 32 free throws. What is it with Texas teams and charity-stripe woes? Just the night before, the University of Texas blew an eight-point overtime lead because it couldn't hit foul shots.
Coleman carried the Cougars early, scoring 14 points in the game's first 15 minutes. In many ways, this was Coleman's introduction to the college basketball nation and he wasn't going to disappoint. He dropped in a pull-up three from the wing, swung into the lane for a pretty jump stop floater, hit jumpers in transition.
Maybe, finally somebody would notice the nation's leading scorer. For even as he poured in points throughout the regular season, nobody outside of Houston (and few inside the city either for that matter) paid attention to the Cougars star, figuring Coleman was just a trigger-happy gunner on a middling, second-tier conference team. Until tonight, when Coleman held the sports nation's attention for several moments.
Still when Maryland built up a 37-29 first-half lead and appeared ready to start pulling away for the first time, Cougars guard Adam Brown is the one who provided the big jolt of hope.
Brown hit a double-clutch, hesitating heave from only a stride across half court at the first-half buzzer, pulling Houston within 39-37 at the break. Suddenly, Cinderella was back in Spokane.
Any magic evaporated during intermission though. The Terrapins came out like a hare, hitting their first five shots of the second half, essentially never looking back.