Big comeback in Florida fuels Terps' confidence

January 22, 1991|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- When the University of Maryland basketball team left the campus Friday, its confidence was shaken by the absence of injured point guard Walt Williams and a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference losing streak.

When the 9-7 Terrapins take the court at Cole Field House for tonight's 7:30 game against Boston University (6-9), they will have gone from enervated to energized. Their confidence has been renewed and their losing streak is a memory.

Comeback victories -- especially from a 17-point halftime deficit -- have a way of doing that. Not that Maryland was still celebrating its first road victory this season, 86-81 Saturday at South Florida.

But the afterglow was still apparent yesterday.

"It will probably be a lot of confidence for some of the younger guys who've been playing more since Walt got hurt," said senior center Cedric Lewis, who scored 16 points and tied his brother Derrick's school record with 12 blocked shots. "The second half was like we played against South Carolina [in the Holiday Festival]. We hadn't played that way in awhile."

More importantly, the Terps had not played that way since Williams, their leading scorer and the team's best player, had suffered a fractured left fibula Jan. 12 against Duke. Junior forward Garfield Smith had 17 points and eight rebounds, and senior guard Matt Roe scored a team-high 23.

"It had a lot of meaning for this team," said Roe, whose three-point shot with 35 seconds remaining helped secure the victory. "They're one of the best teams in the Sun Belt. They had won 15 straight games on their home court. Before we left, we were asking, 'Can we win without a go-to guy?' I think this proved that we could."

Though most of this year's team weren't part of last year's 65-61 loss at BU, Maryland coach Gary Williams has informed them of what happened. "They beat us last year. I think that will get our attention," said Williams. "They did a great job. We were coming off a big win over Virginia, and when we watched the tape, looked as if we were still thinking about it."

The school's sports information office was busy checking old box scores yesterday. None of the current players could remember being part of such a huge comeback in high school or college.

Gary Williams said that he had been part of a similar comeback only once as a coach, in the 1970 New Jersey state semifinals, when he was at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden. In that game, his team was down 15 at halftime and led by four going into the fourth quarter.

"But this is different," said Williams.

And so is Maryland. The Terps are still adjusting to playing without Walt Williams, who is expected to be in a cast for at least zTC another three weeks. Point guards Kevin McLinton and Matt Downing combined for 14 points and nine assists against South Florida.

"We have to get to the point where we're mature enough to handle our wins as well as our losses," said Gary Williams.

NOTES: Walt Williams rode a stationary bicycle yesterday at practice. It was his first physical activity since getting hurt.

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