W. Virginia to test Terps' soundness An early-season lesson in fan noise faces freshmen

December 05, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The stories are passed down fro one team to another. As a sophomore, Kevin McLinton was told by the older players on Maryland's basketball team what it was like to play a game at West Virginia.

This week, it was McLinton's turn to tell the younger players who have never been inside the wild WVU Coliseum about the crowd that makes the fans at Duke or North Carolina seem tame. About the Mountaineers mascot who fires a musket during the game, usually after the opposing team calls a timeout.

"It kind of scares you," McLinton, now Maryland's senior point guard, said in recalling his first trip here two years ago. "It shocks you. But it's a good atmosphere to play a college basketball game in."

Said freshman forward Exree Hipp: "They [the older players] said the fans are kind of crazy up there. The people are kind of different."

What also will make tonight's game difficult for Maryland (1-0) is an experienced and athletic West Virginia team that won 20 games a year ago, and is expected to come close to that this season. Winning in Morgantown will go a long way for these mostly young and inexperienced Terrapins.

The security blanket that has covered Maryland's highly touted freshmen class for more than a month -- from Midnight Madness through Tuesday's 103-80 opening-night victory over UMBC -- will be gone. It is the toughest early-season game the Terps will play until a Dec. 28 matchup against Louisville at Cole Field House.

"I like it, playing there in the second game, rather than playing at home and getting a false sense," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "It'll show me who's ready to play, the closer we get to the ACC."

Said McLinton: "This is our first big test. We have to come out ready to play. Two years ago, we weren't ready and we paid for it."

Though the Terps wound up making it close at the end -- the Mountaineers won, 90-85 -- they had to play catch-up the entire game. It was the 15th defeat for Maryland in 18 games at Morgantown. The last victory here was an ugly 42-41 win in 1985-86.

Williams is anxious to see how his team is going to react.

"It's just another road game to play," said Williams, who played here three times during his Maryland career, winning twice. "I always enjoyed competing in places like that. Basketball is meant to be played with a lot of noise."

Williams is also curious to see whether his team continues to come together. Despite their preseason attention and their success in the season opener, the freshmen seem now to defer to seniors McLinton and Evers Burns to lead the way.

In the win over UMBC, Hipp scored 21 points and Johnny Rhodes had 16. But tonight, Maryland will need Burns and McLinton to take charge. Burns had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the opener, and McLinton finished with 11 points and seven assists despite being in constant foul trouble.

"We want the seniors to come out and establish things," said Hipp, who had one of the most successful debuts of any rTC freshman in the country.

"We came out a little flat against UMBC," said McLinton. "We can't afford to do that tonight. We have to quiet the crowd."

At the Coliseum, that is close to impossible. Even if the crowd isn't making noise, the mascot with the musket certainly will.

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