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 he previously believed.

In the first half of a 93-55 rout of the Bison before 12,850 at Cole Field House, the 6-foot-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. While he 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 and were barely challenged after that. The sophomore center from Nigeria scored 10 of his career-high 19 in the second half.

In all, Maryland finished with five players in double figures. Sophomore forward Laron Profit wound up with 14 points, while junior guard Sarunas Jasikevicius added 13. Sophomore guard Jabari Outtz led the Bison with 16 points. Junior forward Rodney Elliott pulled down a career-high nine rebounds to lead the Terrapins.

"I was glad to see the way we came out tonight," said Williams. "I was concerned with our concentration against a team like Howard, but it was pretty good. We have to get better with our inside defense when we play bigger teams, but people like Brian Watkins and Rodney Elliott played very well."

Said Watkins: "I got a little tired in the second half, but I'm tryingto push my way through. With the team being a little small, it puts a certain amount of pressure on me, Rodney and Keith up front. That's what we have to do for us to be a good team."

It was hard to tell who played better in the first half for Maryland. Was it the starters, who built leads of 10-0, 15-2 and 20-6 with fairly even distribution? Or, was it the reserves, who helped stretch that lead to 30-8 behind the play of Watkins and junior guard Matt Kovarik?

Watkins was a lot more active in his nine-minute stint in the first half than he had been in either of the team's two exhibition games. His first basket came on a tip-in of his own missed shot with 11: 32 to go. His second came after he filled the lane and drove for a layup. His third on a ferocious one-handed dunk with 8: 14 to go.

A couple of drives by Jasikevicius, the second of which came after weaving through traffic and scooping in a shot, pushed the lead to 34-8 and two more baskets -- one by Watkins, the other by Profit -- made it 39-8 with 7: 35 left in the first half.

Trailing 41-10, Howard finally put together a respectable run. The Bison scored four times in five possessions to cut its deficit to 25 before dunks by Ekezie and Booth started the Terrapins on another run right before the half. The dunk by Ekezie, which came at the end of a half-court lob from Jasikevicius, entertained the small crowd.

But Ekezie's post-dunk celebration irritated Williams, who pulled the Nigerian for a minute before putting him back in. Maryand finished the half with a 51-23 lead. While Booth led the way with 14 points, Ekezie and Watkins each had nine points and five rebounds.

After hitting six of their first seven shots and 11 of their first 15, the Terrapins cooled off and wound up shooting 20 of 38 in the first half. But the Bison managed to hit only eight of 28 shots and were badly out-rebounded, 33-11 overall and 12-2 on the offensive boards.

NOTE: It was the 47th straight nonconference win at home for Maryland, which will play host to Towson State on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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