Terps show their best, worst in opener Wide range of '95 answers found in loss to Kentucky

November 26, 1995|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The answers to a preseason's worth of questions began filtering down to Maryland on Friday night like sand through the ++ hourglass.

There weren't enough answers to know how good -- or troubled -- the Terrapins might be this season. But the evidence in a 96-84 loss to No. 1 Kentucky suggested the range of possibilities was wide.

Are the Terps as good as their pressure defense made them look at times? Or as bad as their half-court offense made them look at others?

Will they be as tough on the boards as a 41-34 rebounding edge made them appear? Or as toothless as a 1-for-12 night at the three-point line seemed to indicate?

This much is certain going into tomorrow's game against Towson State at the Baltimore Arena:

* Guard Johnny Rhodes, with a career-high 30 points, five rebounds and three steals in a tireless 37 minutes, has established himself as the team's go-to guy.

* At least two of the Terps' freshmen can help right away. Terrell Stokes shook off the rust to give Maryland 10 solid minutes at point guard. After missing most of the preseason with a back problem, he had just one turnover against Kentucky's pressure defense, hit two baskets in heavy traffic and made two steals.

Obinna Ekezie, the Terps' 6-foot-10 center, gave them a presence in the low post with six points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 20 minutes.

* The Terps will not collapse without Joe Smith patrolling the paint.

That they were within six points of Kentucky, and had a chance to cut the deficit to four, with two minutes left was a clear sign that this will be a competitive team at the least.

"By no means are we happy we played the No. 1 team tough," said co-captain Duane Simpkins.

Except for Rhodes, Maryland's offense struggled fitfully. The Terps committed 24 turnovers, had trouble inbounding the ball against Kentucky's trap and went for periods of nine and six minutes with only one field goal.

The 1-for-12 three-point shooting was particularly troublesome. Simpkins, the team's best three-point shooter, couldn't get good shots at the basket and wound up 0-for-3 behind the arc. Sarunas Jasikevicius, the designated gunner off the bench, couldn't get open even for one shot.

"We didn't shoot the ball well," coach Gary Williams said. "We missed some open threes, and that basically was the difference.

"If that's as good as we can shoot them, then you won't see many the rest of the year. Hopefully, we're a better shooting team than that."

Williams also needs more production from his frontcourt. Only Keith Booth (11 points, four rebounds) is holding his own, and he battled foul trouble, eventually fouling out.

Mario Lucas, whose errant pass in the final two minutes snuffed Maryland's comeback hopes, is not comfortable in the low post. The 6-8 senior is still attempting to go from perimeter player to power player.

Then there's 6-8 forward Exree Hipp, who missed nearly two weeks of the preseason with a badly sprained ankle and has been almost invisible. He had five points and three rebounds, and his most memorable moment -- a monster dunk in the first half -- was wiped out by an over-the-back foul call.

When the Terps post up, more often than not it's for Rhodes, their versatile 6-5 senior.

"That's a typical game for him," Williams said. "Not in terms of points, but in the way he does so many things on the court. He's got great hands. He made a couple of steals where you couldn't believe he'd get to the ball."

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