Terps return to routine today

January 22, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Snow was just another four-letter word to Gary Williams this week. It canceled classes at the University of Maryland. It took his players out of their routines. It put the Terrapins basketball coach in a major funk, a difficult thing to do these days.

"It's hard to stay intense," said Williams. "Occupying a player's time becomes tougher because you can't practice eight hours a day. You have to watch that they don't stay up too late and they don't sleep all day. It's not a good thing."

When you factor in that Maryland (10-3, 3-1) hasn't played since it beat Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., a week ago, Williams isn't sure which team will show up at Cole Field House for this afternoon's 3:30 game against North Carolina State (5-9, 1-3).

Today's game marks the first time in more than eight years that a Maryland team has played as a ranked team. The Terrapins moved up to No. 25 in The Associated Press poll this week and could rise a few more notches if they play well against the Wolfpack.

"You want them to be excited because they're kids, and they deserve to be," said Williams. "But at the same time, it makes you work harder because teams are looking at you differently. It makes your job tougher, but then you want to be there."

A campus that has been a virtual wasteland this week should come alive this afternoon. The Terps share third place in the ACC with Wake Forest, a half-game behind Virginia and Duke.

And players who have spent most of their careers with little at stake except pride find themselves in the spotlight, with each win putting them toward their goal of making the NCAA tournament.

"We're not thinking about that; it's too early," said Williams.

Said point guard Duane Simpkins: "To us, it [the national ranking] doesn't mean a thing. Maybe it does to the people in the stands and to the alumni. But to us, it just means we have something to maintain and protect."

It shouldn't be that difficult to do against the Wolfpack.

A year ago, N.C. State was the only team Maryland beat in the ACC. The Terps did it twice during the regular season, then again in the preliminary game of the ACC tournament.

While the Terps have made a quantum leap to near the top of the ACC, N.C. State is still struggling.

After winning its first league game against winless Florida State Sunday in Raleigh, the Wolfpack was throttled back to reality Thursday night at home by fifth-ranked Duke, 92-65.

"Maryland is a tough game regardless of when we played last," N.C. State coach Les Robinson said yesterday. "They've taken it to another level. You've just got to start over again. But give us credit; we're not a total washout. We're not the worst team in the ACC."

Said freshman forward Keith Booth: "We know that State has a good shooting team, so I don't think anyone's thinking this is going to be easy. We just have to come out and play as hard as we have every game."

Williams isn't sure which Wolfpack team will show up today, either, but then he doesn't really care. What concerns him is which Maryland will show up, the one that sleepwalked through practice earlier this week or the one that started to play with a little more intensity yesterday.

"We don't have to worry about what N.C. State's mental state is. We just have to be concerned with our own," said Williams.

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