McLinton stretches Terps to win Guard scores 14 of last 20, ends Wolfpack hex, 70-65

January 24, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA — RALEIGH, N.C. -- Kevin McLinton accomplished yesterday at Reynolds Coliseum what no Maryland basketball player had done since Len Bias seven years ago. Not Derrick Lewis. Not Tony Massenburg. Not Walt Williams.

After North Carolina State had erased all of a 10-point deficit to twice take a two-point lead, McLinton took over down the stretch and led the Terps to a 70-65 victory over the Wolfpack, their first win here since the 1985-86 season.

Before a small but noisy crowd of 6,800, McLinton scored a game-high 27 points, one short of a career high set recently against Florida State, as Maryland secured its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory of the season.

"I think we were very fortunate to win today, and we were also very fortunate to have Kevin McLinton on our team," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "He's done that a lot for us this season, taken over games down the stretch."

With a rapidly thinning bench depleted by an eye injury to freshman guard Duane Simpkins, and with starting center Chris Kerwin playing 34 minutes despite an intestinal virus, McLinton saved Maryland (10-5, 1-4) from losing to a team that was coming off a 36-point defeat at Duke.

On top of that, the Terps didn't want to lose the momentum they had built in last week's upset of 12th-ranked Oklahoma at the Baltimore Arena. Despite shooting 42 percent from the field against the Wolfpack, Maryland willnow carry a two-game winning streak into Tuesday's game at Clemson.

"We needed to keep things rolling," said McLinton. "Hopefully, -- the Oklahoma game gave us some confidence, and we have to build on this win. We feel good about ourselves now."

Said Williams: "I think the way Kevin is playing has rubbed off on the younger guys."

McLinton was nearly a one-man team in the second half, bullying his way for 20 of his points. He scored 14 of the last 20 points for the Terps, including 12 straight in one stretch when N.C. State (4-9, 0-5) seemed on the verge of its first conference win.

"It was one of the things Coach Williams said when he called a timeout [after a 19-9 run by N.C. State tied the game at 48]," said McLinton, who made nine of 18 from the field. "He said we were settling for jump shots when we should be taking the ball to the basket. I felt like I had to take over."

What also helped the Terps was N.C. State point guard Curtis Marshall fouling out with the outcome still in doubt. With 4:10 remaining, and the game tied at 58, Marshall was called for going over Johnny Rhodes' back while trying for a tip-in.

"That was a tough call," said N.C. State coach Les Robinson, whose team stayed in the game with its suddenly rejuvenated three-point shooting (eight of 20). "It really hurt us in many ways. If the first shot goes in, he doesn't have to go for the rebound. He just got excited with it. We just went a little too crazy."

So did McLinton, who immediately hit a pull-up jumper for a 60-58 lead. Then, after a layup by Wolfpack center Kevin Thompson tied the game, McLinton was fouled by freshman Marcus Wilson and made both free throws in what would be an 8-for-8 afternoon from the line.

If McLinton had to do it nearly by himself for a good portion of the second half, he did have some help in the last three minutes. Senior forward Evers Burns made a big basket for a 64-60 lead, reserve guard Mike Thibeault and freshman forward Exree Hipp hit some free throws and the defense made some big stops.

But in retrospect, it was McLinton who lifted Maryland on his broad shoulders. "I'm bigger than every [other] point guard in the ACC," saidMcLinton, who is 6 feet 3 and 220 pounds. "I can drive or dish to somebody else. Until somebody stops me, I'm going to play this way."

Nobody has stopped McLinton lately. Yesterday's performance was the fourth in five ACC games in which McLinton scored more than 20 points. But aside from Burns, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, McLinton got little help.

Rhodes and Hipp had their moments, but they continue to play like freshmen. Rhodes scored a season-low six points on 3-for-11 shooting, and Hipp had eight points while shooting three of 11. Hipp did have seven rebounds and seven assists.

Asked about their erratic play, Williams said, "It's a matter that they're freshmen. . . . Not many ACC freshmen are going to come into a place like this and play a vital part of leading a team to victory."

Until yesterday, not many Maryland seniors had here either. Not in the last seven years.

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