Freshman on fire torches Terps with long-distance shots

February 28, 1991|By Barry Jacobs | Barry Jacobs,Special to The Evening Sun

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Three-point shooting exhibitions are a common occurrence at North Carolina State. Hagerstown's Rodney Monroe leads the ACC in three-pointers made per game (3.54), and the Wolfpack leads in three-point accuracy (.409).

Earlier this season, N.C. State mounted a record-setting three-point barrage in a vain attempt to stave off a Maryland victory at College Park. So, it was no surprise when the Wolfpack's long-range shooting keyed a 114-91 rout of the Terps last night.

But no one expected that freshman Migjen Bakalli would be the source of the bombs that kept N.C. State (18-8, 8-5) in contention in the first half, then helped blow open a competitive game midway through the second period.

"We saw probably the best three-point shooting exhibition you can see," N.C. State coach Les Robinson said after Bakalli hit eight consecutive threes en route to a career-high 27 points.

Bakalli, who entered the game averaging 5.3 points, hit eight of nine from long range and nine of 11 shots overall. Essentially N.C. State's entire bench, Bakalli, the sixth man, had scored but 57 points in 12 previous ACC games. For the year, the Wolfpack had gotten 68 points from its substitutes during league competition.

Against Maryland's trapping defense, though, Bakalli repeatedly found himself open, and the lefthander took advantage. "They never got in my face," said the slightly giddy wing. "I felt good and the shots went down. That was pretty much it."

The scoring by Bakalli, along with a 20-assist effort by point guard Chris Corchiani, left Terps coach Gary Williams lamenting his team's defensive effort.

"Emotionally, we didn't get in this game tonight," Williams said after his team (15-12, 4-9) lost its sixth ACC road game in six attempts this season. "We paid the price for that."

N.C. State solidified its grip on third place in the league as it made 54.2 percent of its shots, including 10 of 21 from three-point range, and controlled the boards, 46-36. Monroe, who leads the ACC with a 27.7-point average, had 24, all but four in the second half.

At one early juncture, the Terps' traps forced turnovers, but they couldn't keep up with State's heat when second half began.

"They just moved it up a notch in the second half," Williams said of N.C. State. "I thought they did an excellent job of finding the open men in their offense. It seemed like, whenever we helped, they kicked it out for a three. Or, if we turned our heads at all, Corchiani found somebody for a layup, which he does so well."

Corchiani's 20 assists tied the league record held by Clemson's Grayson Marshall, who matched that total against Maryland-Eastern Shore in 1986. Earlier this week, Corchiani became the NCAA's modern career assist leader. He now has 992.

For Maryland, the statistical highlight was the four blocks recorded by Cedric Lewis, whose 5.2 rejections per game assure him of a modern ACC record. Also significant were the 24 minutes played by Walt Williams, who still clearly favored his healing left leg.

With one regular-season game remaining, against Wake Forest on Saturday, N.C. State is the only ACC team besides Duke with an unblemished homecourt record. Maryland also plays Saturday, at Virginia, in the finale of a season cut short by NCAA probation.

Asked to assess the 1990-91 season, Williams said, "I'll think about it after Saturday." Then, in facetious reference to the NCAA tournament, he added, "I was thinking if we won tonight, we might be on the bubble."

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