Tech gave undersized Terps inside look at what to expect in ACC

Bill Tanton

January 07, 1993|By Bill Tanton

Coach Gary Williams was introduced at a Baltimore Arena news conference yesterday by a broad-shouldered, 6-foot-8 young man named Dario Savarese.

Williams, here to help promote his Maryland basketball team's game with Oklahoma at the Arena Jan. 19, the Terps' first visit to Baltimore in five years, was quick on his feet, as usual.

"After losing to Georgia Tech last night," said Williams, glancing toward Savarese, "I'd like to recruit Dario here to come down and play for us."

Dario, who works with Sports Productions Inc., which is producing the Maryland-Oklahoma game, is a former James Madison University football tackle.

Williams had made his point. In losing to Georgia Tech, 85-75, in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener Tuesday night at Cole Field House, the Terps showed a sellout crowd of 14,500 that they don't have the personnel to handle inside players like Tech's.

"Georgia Tech has the biggest front line in the country," said Williams.

That goes a long way toward explaining why Maryland's winning streak was broken at seven games, and why Tech has won seven straight and is ranked No. 10 in the nation.

There are other reasons why the Terps lost to Tech. Maryland shot poorly against a zone defense. From the foul line the Terps were a horrendous 7-for-21 for 33 percent.

Says Gary Williams: "I coached a junior varsity high school team that shot free throws better than that. We're not poor foul shooters. Going into the Tech game we were shooting 70 percent, third in the conference.

"The turning point of that game came a minute and a half into it when Evers Burns was thrown to the floor by Georgia Tech and he laid there.

"He hit his tail bone and I know that hurts, but Evers should have gotten up. Our young players look to a senior like Evers who's 6-8 and 260 pounds and they see him laying there. You gotta get up."

Maryland is young and talented, but too many of its key players are freshmen (Johnny Rhodes, Exree Hipp, Duane Simpkins). First-year men generally are erratic -- especially when getting their first taste of ACC pressure in a packed house.

Although Michigan's Fab Five came close to showing otherwise last season, it's still true that you don't win championships with freshmen.

Maryland, it seems to me, will be lucky to win a half-dozen more games the rest of the regular season. The Terps are 8-2 at the moment, thanks to a cheesecake schedule. There are those who say one reason Maryland was not ready for a top team like Tech was an early-season schedule that included the likes of Morgan State, UMES and Howard.

"Maryland needs another wave of freshmen," local hoops guru Paul Baker said as he exited Cole Field House.

In the tunnel leading out of Cole and to the parking lot, a pink-cheeked man stood alone, occasionally greeting old friends.

It was Frank Fellows, who played at Maryland and coached the team for two seasons in the '60s before Lefty Driesell took over in '69.

"Gary needs a big man," said Fellows, who is retired but remains a big Gary Williams fan.

There seems to be no doubt in anyone's mind that Williams will get his big man, and that he will get whatever else he needs to lift the Terps to the Top 25. But, logically, that's two years away.

There is a warm glow within longtime Maryland people that Williams is in charge. Gary is a Terp himself. He has a genuine love for the place. That, no doubt, is what kept him at College Park after the NCAA sanctions against the program were handed down.

"The people here at the time [primarily former athletic director Lew Perkins] didn't give it to Gary straight," Fellows said. "When Gary came here from Ohio State [in 1989], they told him we'd get a slap on the wrist from the NCAA. Instead, we were hit hard with penalties that we're just now getting out from under."

The upcoming Oklahoma game is an important step in Maryland's climb back to the heights.

Williams has wanted for four years to get his team into Baltimore, where, he points out, there are "the most Maryland alumni and the most Maryland basketball fans."

Gary said he would only come here to play a good opponent. He has that in Oklahoma. "I didn't get much sleep Monday night," Williams said, "after watching Oklahoma come from behind and take Duke into overtime -- at Duke."

The arrival of the much-needed big man will make everything better for Maryland basketball. He may be coming next year in the person of Joe Smith, now a Norfolk, Va., high school star.

"He's 6-10 and one of the best big men in the country," Williams said. "He's what we need right now."

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