COL BKB: Maryland 86, Tex.-El Paso 83

March 18, 2004 at 5:52 PM

DENVER, March 18 (UPI) -- Chris McCray scored 19 points Thursday as Maryland escaped with its sixth straight win, 86-83 over Texas-El Paso in the NCAA Tournament's first round.

Fourth-seeded Maryland (20-11), coming off its first ACC Tournament championship in 20 years, will next face Syracuse. It will be a meeting of the two most recent national champions.

"We are not a veteran, savvy team like we have been the past three years, but we are learning with experience," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said.

Texas-El Paso (24-8) trailed by 11 points, then took its only lead of the second half on Omar Thomas' two foul shots for a 76-75 edge with 2:54 to go.

The Miners' Chris Craig forged the game's final tie with a three-pointer with 1:47 left.

Jamar Smith spilt a pair at the line to give Maryland the lead for good and Thomas committed a turnover. Thomas was whistled for a blocking foul that led to D.J. Strawberry's two foul shots with 46 seconds remaining.

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