Terps set sail with breeze Maryland breaks to big early lead, routs Howard, 93-55

November 27, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- The Maryland Terrapins hope to use the early part of their schedule for experiment and discovery. Though Gary Williams didn't do much experimenting in last night's season opener against Howard, he did make one important find.

The Terps' coach found out that Brian Watkins wasn't as rusty as previously believed.

In the first half of a 93-55 rout of the Bison before an announced crowd of 12,850 at Cole Field House, the 6-9 transfer from Notre Dame showed flashes of what Williams and the Terrapins will need once they start playing against bigger, stronger and more talented teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Watkins, a sophomore who had to sit out last season, scored nine of his career-high 11 points in the half and, at least for one night, gave Maryland another inside player it so desperately needs. Though he ran out of gas and wasn't nearly as smooth in the second half, Watkins' play allowed Williams to believe he'll have another option aside from Keith Booth and Obinna Ekezie.

Howard couldn't handle Booth or Ekezie, either.

Booth, the senior forward from Dunbar in Baltimore, scored 14 of his 17 points in the opening half, when the Terrapins ran off the game's first 10 points to set the tone for the rest of the evening. The sophomore center from Nigeria scored 10 of his career-high 19 in the second half.

"We need to be able to score inside," said Williams, who also saw junior forward Rodney Elliott grab a career- and game-high nine rebounds. "I liked the way Brian and Rodney played tonight, and we're going to need that once we get into the ACC."

In all, Maryland finished with five players scoring in double figures. Sophomore forward Laron Profit wound up with 14 points, and junior guard Sarunas Jasikevicius added 13 points and five assists. Sophomore point guard Terrell Stokes tied his career high with six assists. Sophomore guard Jabari Outtz led the Bison with 16 points.

"I thought they were physical as heck," said Howard coach Mike McLeese. "They're a lot more athletic than I thought they'd be, even Obinna. They seem to play well together."

During the 10-0 run to start the game, all five Maryland starters scored, with the final three points coming when Booth drove the lane, drew a couple of defenders and found Stokes for an open jumper. That sort of share-the-wealth philosophy continued as the Terrapins built leads of 15-2, 18-4 and 20-6 .

The second team picked up where the starters left off, stretching the lead to 30-8. Watkins scored all three of his first-half baskets in a little more than three minutes: a tip-in of his own missed shot, a driving layup and a ferocious one-handed dunk.

Those plays belied Watkins' reputation for being a bit soft for a player of his size.

"I don't know where that came from," said Williams, who tried to recruit Watkins out of high school in Nashville, Tenn. "A lot of people said that without ever seeing him play."

Both Watkins and Elliott know what their roles will be this season for the undersized Terrapins. Williams has started the season with three guards in his starting lineup, but that might change depending on the size of the opponent's front line. Watkins and Elliott seem prepared for whatever Williams wants them to do.

"It puts some pressure on me and Rodney to help Obinna and Keith," said Watkins, who also had eight rebounds in 21 minutes. "But we know we can help this team. I got a little tired in the second half, but I'm trying to push my way through that."

Said Elliott, who seems to play better coming off the bench: "If the team needs me to rebound and play defense, that's what I'll do. If they need me to score, that's what I'll do. I just want us to be the best team we can be come March."

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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