LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP)—Maryland may have been playing for fifth place in the EA Sports Maui Invitational but coach Gary Williams wouldn’t let his team think that way.
“I told them they had to shake off they were in a consolation situation. I told them they were playing great, he said.
Ekene Ibekwe had 16 points and Chris McCray added 15 and No. 23 Maryland beat Arkansas 75-62 on Wednesday to finish fifth in the eight-team tournament.
The Terrapins (3-1) bounced back from an opening-round loss to No. 8 Gonzaga with wins over Chaminade and Arkansas but it was the first time in their three appearances in this tournament they failed to reach the semifinals. Maryland was second in 1994 and fourth in 2000.
“This is a pretty resilient team. They have great attitudes,” Williams said. “It’s still great basketball”
Ibekwe, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, had six rebounds, four steals and three blocks, but like point guard D.J. Strawberry, was saddled with foul trouble in the second half. McCray and the rest of Maryland’s reserves came up big in the second half, though, scoring the team’s final 20 points.
“I told them if we’re going to be a good team we can’t rely on one player,” he said, referring to Strawberry who was limited to 17 minutes before fouling out with 1:15 to play. “They made up their minds and responded without him.”
Arkansas (2-2) pulled to 53-50 with 6:39 to play on a rebound basket by Darian Townes. Ibweke hit two free throws 20 seconds later—the last points scored by a Maryland starter—to start a 13-3 run that gave the Terrapins control. McCray had five points in the run and he scored 12 points in the closing 5:08.
“We tried to get after them defensively without Strawberry,” Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. “McCray did a good job handling the pressure.”
Ronnie Brewer had 19 points for the Razorbacks, who lost to No. 3 Connecticut in the opening round and beat Kansas in the consolation semifinals. Townes added 13 points.
“They play good help defense and didn’t allow shots,” Brewer said.
Maryland, despite holding a 10-point lead, kept fouling in the final minute but Arkansas was unable to take advantage, going 4-for-8 from the free throw line.
Ibekwe was the key inside for Maryland as the Terrapins struggled from the perimeter by going 3-for-12 from 3-point range. The Terrapins finished with a 35-27 rebound advantage.
“We decided last night to help inside because they’re pretty physical,” Williams said. “We knew they like to go inside so it was a defensive test for us, too.”
Both teams committed 21 turnovers and they combined for 25 in a ragged first half that reflected the 9 a.m. start.
“There was some fatigue,” Brewer said, “but it was the same for all of us.”
This was Arkansas’ second appearance on Maui as the Razorbacks finished second in 1991.