COLLEGE PARK -- Senior Day is still nearly three month away at the University of Maryland, but Kevin McLinton and Evers Burns got a jump on the occasion last night at Cole Field House.
McLinton emerged from his early-season slump to get Maryland off to a fast start, while he and Burns helped the Terrapins put away American in the second half.
The result was a game-high 24 points for Burns, a season-high 22 points for McLinton and, most significantly, an impressive 98-67 romp over the Eagles. It was clearly Maryland's best performanceso far this season.
"I think for us, offensively we did a good job, especially in the second half," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team will play its third game in five days when it meets La Salle tomorrow night in Philadelphia.
The Terps weren't too bad offensively early on. They hit 11 of their first 14 shots and took a 24-8 lead. After American (2-2) twice cut its deficit to four, Maryland pulled out to a 12-point lead (44-32) at halftime.
But it wasn't until early in the second half that things began to click for the Terps. With the Eagles keeping it close, and cutting Maryland's lead back to six, Williams called a timeout to, uh, talk to his team.
"He told us that we were a better team than we were showing," said Burns, who also had a team-high 12 rebounds. "We knew we had to get our killer instinct."
Led by Burns, McLinton and freshman guard Johnny Rhodes, who scored 20 points on nine-of-13 shooting, Maryland went on a 29-10 run to turn a 49-43 lead into a blowout. The Terps got several big contributions off the bench as well.
Little-used sophomore Kurtis Shultz of Baltimore had five rebounds and three assists -- including a neat no-look pass to Chris Kerwin for a layup -- while freshman guard Duane Simpkins had six points and four assists. Freshman forward Nemanja Petrovic added four points and four rebounds.
"Off the bench we really got some help tonight," said Williams. "That's where we are going to be effective, I think. Some of the teams we play against go nine or 10 deep. I thought John Walsh played really well tonight. Kurtis played really well in practice and he showed it tonight."
Said Shultz: "I just tried to go in and play smart. I had a couple of chances to shoot and the crowd was egging me on, but I remembered what Coach [Williams] had told me. He told me not to force things, that my points would come."
McLinton remembered those same words. After missing 20 of 30 shots in Maryland's first three games, as well as his first shot last night, McLinton got hot. He finished nine of 12 from the field, to go along with seven assists and only two turnovers in 28 minutes.
Said McLinton: "I got back to basics tonight. I took a deep breath. This was the best I felt all year."
Not only did McLinton come out of his funk offensively, but he did a wonderful job on Brian Gilgeous. The Eagles' leading scorer, who attracted a number of pro scouts to the game, finished with 13 points on three-of-13 shooting before fouling out with 7:16 to go.
McLinton took advantage of both his experience and his size on American's freshman point guard, Darryl Franklin. He set the tone for the evening by driving by Frankin time and again, then began to hit his outside shot. At the other end, he used his strength to wear down Gilgeous.
"I told Coach Williams at practice that I wanted Gilgeous," said McLinton. "He scored 31 in their last game. And he's played very well against us the last two years. I took on the challenge and really focused on playing him tough. My offense kind of worked off my defense."
"Kevin hit his stride tonight," said Williams. "You have to be patient. I know what Kevin can do as a point guard. He returns as probably the second-most experienced guard in the ACC behind Bobby Hurley. I know what Kevin can do for the team when he is on his game."
NOTES: Craig Sedmak led the Eagles with 19 points and 15 rebounds. . . . American coach Chris Knoche, who picked up a technical foul, said the officials let the game get out of hand. "The best thing was that nobody got hurt," he said.