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Updated: Saturday, December 6, 2003 7:11 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(24) Gonzaga 82, (25) Maryland 68

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Blake Stepp put on a 3-point shooting display that topped his passing display.

Stepp drained a BB&T Classic-record seven 3-pointers and finished with 27 points and 11 assists as No. 24 Gonzaga posted an 82-68 victory over 25th-ranked Maryland at the MCI Center.

Gonzaga (5-1) won its fifth straight since a season-opening loss to St. Joseph's and will face George Washington in Sunday's championship. The steady leadership of its senior guard was the difference.

Stepp came up with 17 points and seven assists after halftime as the Bulldogs rallied from a 34-30 deficit. His 3-pointer just over four minutes into the second half snapped a 39-39 tie and triggered a 20-8 tear that gave Gonzaga the lead for good.

"I got after them a little bit at the half because I didn't think we played well or strong in the first half," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We changed that in the second half."

Many of Stepp's shots came from well behind the arc, including his last one from nearly 28 feet away for a 78-61 advantage in the final minutes.

"When you start popping, you start feeling good and you begin to look a little more to get open on the break," Stepp said. "When the defense is rushing back, it's hard to find the shooters on the floor."

The Bulldogs shot just 36 percent (10-of-28) before revving it up to 60 percent (18-of-30) after halftime. Stepp led the way with his deft ballhandling, which led to easy alley-oop dunks for athletic wing players Erroll Knight and freshman Adam Morrison.

After scoring the final nine points of the first half, the Terrapins (4-1) went into a shell. They shot 31 percent (11-of-35) over the final 20 minutes and struggled to keep up with Stepp and the Bulldogs.

"We knew they liked to run and lob the ball up for the 'trey' a lot," Maryland guard Chris McCray said. "We started fine, but I guess we let up. We got tired."

Morrison scored 18 points and Kyle Bankhead added 11 for the Bulldogs, whose 13 3-pointers was one shy of the tournament record. The Bulldogs committed 16 of their 24 turnovers in the first half.

"I don't think we were making decisions very quickly and we weren't swinging the ball," Few said. "A lot of credit goes to Maryland for that."

Nik Caner-Medley scored 16 points to lead the Terrapins. Jamar Smith, who had a 25-point, 12-rebound effort in Tuesday's overtime victory over Wisconsin, added 13 and seven rebounds.

Maryland will meet West Virginia in the consolation game. The Terrapins lost in the first-round game of this tournament for the second straight season, falling to Notre Dame last year.


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