To get a running start, Terps depend on Hipp

March 16, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- There were games earlier this season when Exree Hipp dominated, when his above-the-rim athleticism was a little too much for the competition, when Maryland's sophomore forward could do whatever he wanted. Dunks. Three-pointers. Everything.

concentrate on just playing," Hipp said. "When a team comes out playing me differently than they did before, it throws me off and sometimes it takes to the end of the game before I get back on track."

In Hipp's defense, he's often had to play against opponents who outweigh him, sometimes by 20 or 30 pounds. As for the fewer number of rebounds, a lot of that has to do with the addition of freshmen Keith Booth and Joe Smith, as well as Rhodes being one of the best rebounding guards in the country.

But part of Hipp's problems this season have come when the Terps abandon their transition game and play more of a half-court offense, as they might have to do against Saint Louis (23-5). It happened at the end of last week's game against Virginia, when questionable three-point shots by Rhodes and Hipp proved costly to a team that had been effective going inside to Smith.

"He's had some pretty good looks at the basket," Williams said of Hipp. "But he can make those shots, because he's made them in the past."

After getting off to a good start shooting this season -- highlighted by a 14-of-16, career-high 35-point performance against Towson State -- Hipp has tailed off the past month.

In Maryland's past four games, Hipp is 16 of 49 overall, five of 18 on threes. In the past nine, Hipp has averaged a little more than nine points and three rebounds.

If Hipp has seemed distracted at times lately, it's understandable. He refuses to use it as an excuse, but Hipp has been mourning the death of one of his closest friends, Greg McKinney, who was shot at a party in Prince George's County last month. McKinney was the 16th friend or acquaintance of Hipp's to be killed in the past two years.

"It's sad to say, but I'm at the point right now where it doesn't bother me anymore," Hipp said of the violence that has wracked his neighborhood in southeast Washington. "When someone close to you dies, it gets to you more. There ain't nothing you can do about it. If God wishes for my time to come, it will come. I've got to concentrate on my school work and what the team is doing."

His teammates seem confident Hipp will come around, but they are also aware that time is running out. A loss tomorrow, and they'll be done until next fall. A win, and they're one victory from the Sweet 16. To get there, they need Hipp to become the player he was the first two months of the season rather than the one he's been the past month.

Ex is kind of a laid-back person,"Simpkins said. "Sometimes, he needs to let loose.

SAINT LOUIS vs. MARYLAND

* Day: Tomorrow

* Time: 12:20 p.m.

* Site: Wichita, Kan.

* Region: Midwest

* Seedings: Saint Louis No. 7, Maryland No. 10

* Records: Saint Louis 23-5, Maryland 16-11

* TV: Channel 11

* Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

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