Soccer past gives Ekezie a leg up on competition Foot speed key to defense that stopped 'Pack's Fuller

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

COLLEGE PARK -- Obinna Ekezie's quick feet helped navigate Maryland past North Carolina State yesterday.

Ekezie, a former soccer player in his adolescent days in Nigeria, helped hold 6-foot-11 senior Todd Fuller, the leading scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference, to eight points, 14 below his season average.

In a game the Terps won in overtime, Ekezie 77-74, it was no small feat.

"The thing he does pretty well is move his feet," Maryland coach Gary Williams said of Ekezie. "He's got that soccer background. If he keeps his hands off people and depends on his quickness and foot speed . . ."

Against ever-present Maryland double-teams, Fuller hit just three of 14 shots but pulled down a game-high 17 rebounds. The eight-point effort ended a streak of 24 consecutive double-figure games, going back to last season.

"They used Ekezie and [Mario] Lucas and sent in help," Fuller said. "They sent their quick guards, [Duane] Simpkins and [Johnny] Rhodes from the weak side.

"It was frustrating in the offensive end. I lost patience a couple of times."

Ekezie, a 6-9 freshman, said the scouting report helped prepare him for Fuller. "The coaches told me he was left-handed and liked to go to his right," Ekezie said. "I like playing guys that big. I can use my quickness against them."

Ekezie's third start of the season for Maryland relegated Rodney Elliott to bystander. Elliott, who started six games this season, didn't get in the game.

"It was because we had Obinna in there and Mario, and Keith [Booth] was playing so well," Williams said of Elliott's bench duty. "There just weren't any minutes."

Ekezie is, in fact, the only true center on the Terps' roster.

"We felt we weren't athletic enough with the way we were playing," Williams said. "We weren't big enough physically. At 6-9 and 260, he gives you somebody who takes up room."

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