Terps reserve win over Tigers Subs eat up deficit in 78-68 comeback

December 24, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- The message was sent from University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams to his bench nearly two weeks ago, after he had used his starters for nearly the entire second half of a 17-point victory over La Salle.

Start playing harder, or start watching more.

The message apparently got through before last night's 78-68 victory over Towson State at Cole Field House. With senior forward Evers Burns in foul trouble early in the second half, and starters Exree Hipp and Johnny Rhodes in a freshman funk, the bench brought the Terps back from the brink.

The inspired effort by its reserves, as well as the leadership by senior guard Kevin McLinton, lifted Maryland (5-1) in the last 14 minutes from a five-point deficit to its fourth straight victory. It was the fourth straight defeat for Towson State (1-4). Neither team deserved its fate.

"We have been stressing that we are not the kind of team that can just show up and expect our talent to beat the other team's talent," said Williams. "Towson came in here very focused and knew what they wanted to do. Towson beat us to the ball --rebounding is as simple as that."

It was rebounding, especially on the offensive boards, that helped the Tigers jump out to an early lead and come back from a nine-point deficit to trail at halftime by four, 38-34. It was rebounding, at both ends, that enabled Towson State to take a 48-43 lead with 14:05 to play on two technical free throws by Devin Boyd.

But that technical, called against Williams, woke up his team. Admittedly, the technical on his coach and the fourth foul on Burns more than three minutes earlier woke up McLinton, who had sleepwalked through the first half.

"When Evers got his fourth and Coach got his technical, something clicked in my head," said McLinton, who had scored only one point in his first 19 minutes and hadn't attempted a field goal. "I knew I had to be aggressive and take it on my shoulders and get this team to win."

Said Williams: "I thought we don't win that game without Kevin on the court tonight. I think that is a pretty safe statement. He was going to take full responsibility for us."

Thankfully for Maryland, McLinton has some pretty broad shoulders. And, thankfully for Williams, his bench played with the emotion some of his starters hadn't. It resulted in a run of 10 straight points that put the Terps ahead, 53-50. Eventually, the lead grew to as much as 72-59.

Even then, the Tigers never gave up. They cut their deficit to 72-65 with 2:35 to play, but could get no closer as Boyd and John James fouled out. Burns and McLinton each scored 16 for Maryland -- McLinton had 15 in the second half -- and Terrance "Scooter" Alexander led all scorers with 20.

"In the first half, we rebounded really well," said Towson State coach Terry Truax, whose Tigers out-rebounded the Terps 50-37 overall, including 23-10 on the offensive boards. "I think maybe we got a little rattled with the lead. We're not used to the lead in that situation."

Said Boyd, who finished with 18 points on 6-for-17 shooting, "I thought we wanted it more [than Maryland], but I think we ran out of gas. We're happy with the effort, but not with the fact we lost."

The opposite was true for Williams, especially when it came to his prized freshmen. After playing well for the first five games and averaging 18 points, Rhodes was a no-show last night. The 6-foot-4 guard finished with seven points, one in the second half. Hipp, a 6-7 forward who had been averaging 15, scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

"I think they learned that the second team is pretty good," said Williams. "I think they know we can play well with them sitting."

Said Hipp, "I know we have to play 40 minutes every night."

In their place came little-used sophomores Wayne Bristol and John Walsh. Though they combined for only eight points, they sparked Maryland's defense. Freshmen Nemanja Petrovic and Mario Lucas had eight rebounds and eight points, respectively.

"It took our bench to get us to the level we had to be to win this game," said Williams, whose bench is the deepest its been since he came to Maryland. "I thought tonight what the second team showed in a practice situation last week they carried right over tonight."

NOTES: It was announced yesterday that sophomore guard Alan Rainge, who had played sparingly since coming to Maryland, has left school in hopes of transferring to a school closer to his home in Pontiac, Mich.

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