Booth, Terps work OT for 1st ACC win His all-around game, Jasikevicius' 3-pointer foil N.C. State, 77-74

'Decided not to be denied'

UM's Ekezie stymies ACC leader Fuller

January 21, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- In a season when nothing has come easily, Maryland had to go the extra mile to get its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory yesterday.

An extra mile and an extra five minutes.

It was treacherous terrain, pockmarked by botched free throws, squandered opportunities and more than one last gasp by North Carolina State.

When the Terps finally found their way into the ACC win column and out of the basement with a pulsing, 77-74 overtime victory against the Wolfpack at Cole Field House, it was on the surprising wings of youth.

The Terps (8-6, 1-3) got a huge game out of junior Keith Booth (14 points, 14 rebounds, four blocked shots, four steals, five assists). They got a critical effort from freshman Obinna Ekezie, who helped hold the ACC's scoring leader Todd Fuller to a season-low eight points. And they got a steadying hand from freshman point guard Terrell Stokes down the stretch.

Still, if desperate times call for desperate measures, there were few on the Maryland bench more desperate than sophomore Sarunas Jasikevicius, who hit perhaps the biggest shot of the Terps' season so far.

It was Jasikevicius' three-point basket from the top of the circle with the shot clock at :03 and the score tied at 69 that put the Terps on top to stay in overtime. He got the ball on a kick-out pass from a penetrating Duane Simpkins.

"I had to shoot it because the time clock was running down," he said. "Duane gave me a great pass. . . . I set my feet and shot."

The ball sailed over a charging Jeremy Hyatt and hit nothing but net. Incredibly, it was the only field goal the Terps hit in the final 8:30 of the game.

No doubt, it was a shot that could have reverberations all the way back in Jasikevicius' homeland of Lithuania in northeast Europe, where he is a player of some distinction.

In 1 1/2 seasons with the Terps, though, Jasikevicius had done little to earn a distinction in the college ranks beyond being a good three-point shooter. Until yesterday.

Against a gritty N.C. State team, he did his thing -- he hit three of four three-point shots -- and then some. He scored a team-high 15 points, including five of the Terps' 11 in overtime. He collected four rebounds, played solid defense and, with his fiery demeanor, gave the team an emotional spark on a day when emotions were raw.

"We needed something positive to happen and Sarunas made it happen," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "He's crazy sometimes. He does some wild things. He is an emotional player and we needed that today."

Desperate? Jasikevicius said he knew he had to make the most of the 21 minutes of playing time he received, a career high.

"I had something to prove because the coach was giving me more minutes," he said. "It's been tough [not playing much]. This summer I worked hard. I was in the gym at least three hours a day. It was [frustrating] because I worked hard. Last year, I don't know how hard I worked."

The Terps won because they played relentless defense -- inside on Fuller and outside on the Wolfpack's three-point shooters -- and because they got critical contributions from almost everyone.

Of the seniors, Simpkins scored 12 points, but missed two opportunities at the foul line to clinch the game in regulation. Johnny Rhodes and Mario Lucas had 10 points, and Exree Hipp, in a diminishing role, had only one.

Ekezie, meanwhile, delivered 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots in addition to holding down Fuller.

Stokes played in the backcourt with Simpkins down the stretch and into overtime to give the Terps better ball-handling. After the Wolfpack (11-6, 1-4) forged a 66-66 tie with 3.3 seconds left in regulation on a three-point shot by Danny Strong (26 points), it was Stokes whom the Terps looked to for the potential winning shot.

"We were trying to clear out a side and break Terrell to the sideline," Williams said. "He got a pretty good shot off. His strength is dribble penetration."

Stokes' shot rolled off the front of the rim and the game went to overtime, setting the table for an unlikely hero.

Jasikevicius hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 69 with 2:37 left. With 1:50 left, his three-pointer made the difference. After Simpkins and Ekezie combined for four straight free throws -- and Strong hit three in a row -- Jasikevicius put the lid on the game with a free throw with 6.9 seconds left.

"This was a big win," said Booth, who stayed on the floor for 43 minutes. "We just decided not to be denied today. We could have hung our heads because we should have put it away in regulation."

In the end, it was Jasikevicius' fiery disposition and his steady jump shot that provided the biggest boost. Williams probably never appreciated that disposition more than yesterday.

"I bet he likes it," Jasikevicius said, "because sometimes we're passive on the court and our body language is not that good."

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