Profit leaves Florida State at loss, 88-78 Freshmen's 22 help Terps' four seniors exit Cole with smile

16th win lifts NCAA hopes

Staredown after foul begin decisive charge

March 05, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- What began as a fond farewell for Maryland's four seniors last night ended as a coronation of the Terps' newest hero.

Laron Profit, a reed-thin 6-foot-6 freshman, fueled a second-half comeback that saved the night -- and probably earned an NCAA tournament bid -- with an 88-78 victory over Florida State before a sellout crowd of 14,500 at Cole Field House.

Profit scored 22 points, the most for a Maryland freshman since Joe Smith scored 24 against Loyola on Feb. 19, 1994. But it was his staredown with the Seminoles' Gentry Sparks with 12 minutes left that turned the game decisively.

After leading by as much as 15 points in the first half, the Terps fell behind by seven when Florida State opened the second half with a 22-8 run.

When the Seminoles opened a 55-48 lead with 13: 21 left, Maryland coach Gary Williams called for a timeout.

"We were flat," Williams said. "We had a lot of emotion the first 12, 13 minutes of the game. But I've seen it before on senior night. It was like we hit a wall in a marathon. The key thing was to regroup."

It was during that timeout that Williams asked someone -- anyone -- to step up and make a difference.

He couldn't have known it would turn out to be Profit.

In the next 1: 36, Profit scored seven of Maryland's 10 points -- Johnny Rhodes hit from beyond the arc a trey for the other three -- and the Terps were on their way.

His scoring notwithstanding, it was Profit's posture under the Maryland basket that gave the Terps an emotional charge. He had been fouled hard by Sparks with 12: 11 left, and the two players scuffled briefly.

"Florida State was on a run, and they were trying to get physical," said Profit, who hit eight of nine shots. "I felt it was time for us to step up and let them know they could not physically intimidate us in our building.

"It was a hard foul. That's something we've got to work on -- not letting the other team intimidate us."

Profit hit two free throws and moments later hit fired in a three-pointer from the corner that gave Maryland the lead for good its last lead at 58-57.

"That's the best game Laron's had," Rhodes said. "He just took over the game. He's going to be a great player one day."

Soon, perhaps.

The victory was the Terps' 16th of the season gave the Terps their 16th win of the season (against 11 losses), and sends them into the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Friday as the fifth seed. They'll get a rematch with fourth seed Duke in Friday's first-round game.

The two teams finished 8-8 in the regular season, but Duke got the fourth seed by virtue of its two wins over Maryland.

Florida State (13-13, 5-11) will be in Thursday night's play-in game against North Carolina State. The Seminoles, who got 17 points from James Collins, go into the tourney in a limp, losing four of their last five.

Florida State was playing without 6-9 sophomore Corey Louis, who was suspended for an unspecified violation of team policy. Louis scored 16 points in the 100-78 victory over Maryland on Feb. 10.

Although Profit provided the final spark, Maryland's seniors found this a good game to go out on. On a night when the seniors were honored with their parents, they all had their moments.

Duane Simpkins scored 20 points and passed for four assists to rank third on Maryland's career assist list. Rhodes collected his 100th steal of the season to break the ACC's single-season record. Mario Lucas, starting for the first time in 21 games, scored seven points and took eight rebounds. Exree Hipp scored only four points, but delivered his usual superb defensive effort.

It turned out to be an emotional evening for the seniors.

"I tried not to think about it," said Simpkins, whose father Sylvester Slyvester, said he got caught in traffic and missed the pre-game ceremony. "When we were down seven, it hit me that this was my last game and I didn't want to go out like this."

Simpkins and Lucas hit big three-point shots after Profit put Maryland on top. Then Simpkins followed that up with another three-point play, driving to the basket and getting fouled, to open a 70-65 66-59 70-68 lead.

Florida State got as close as 70-68 before Keith Booth (19 points, nine rebounds) scored six straight points to give Maryland an eight-point lead. The Terps hit 11 of their last 14 shots to put the game away.

It was left to Hipp to put the exclamation point on the evening. With the clock running down, Lucas took a defensive rebound and fired a long pass to a wide-open Hipp down the court.

Hipp, who came back on the floor moments earlier after the crowd chanted for his return, swooped in for a thunderous dunk with one second left.

"I wanted to do something nice for the fans," Hipp said. "I wanted a dunk that counts."

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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