Sarunas Jasikevicius couldn't decide what felt better, scoring a career-high 24 points or playing suffocating, hand-in-the-face defense.
It's a quandary the junior guard would love to grapple with after every game.
Jasikevicius dismantled the Virginia Cavaliers for 16 points in the first half, helping lead the Maryland Terrapins to a 78-62 win yesterday at Cole Field House.
And he all but shut down Virginia shooting guard Curtis Staples, rTC the sixth-most proficient three-point shooter in Atlantic Coast Conference history, holding him to 10 points.
The game left Jasikevicius, a native of Lithuania, beaming, yet perplexed.
"A lot of people say I can't stop anybody on defense and it kind of gets on my nerves," he said. "I take a lot of pride in my defense, especially when people say I can't play it.
"But 24 feels nice. They're both very nice. Going for 24 and keeping [Staples] under his numbers feels real special."
The timing of Jasikevicius' performance couldn't have been better for the Terps. He had scored in double figures just once in Maryland's past eight games, and had a total of 19 points in the three-game Rainbow Classic last week.
Jasikevicius said his confidence increased in practice last week, when the coaching staff persuaded him to look for his shot and put it up. It was advice he heeded from the opening tip yesterday.
Jasikevicius scored the Terps' first seven points, including a three-pointer from the right side on the opening possession.
"You have to give the ball to a shooter like Sarunas," Maryland point guard Terrell Stokes said. "His confidence goes up and down, but you've got to keep giving him the ball.
"I could see it in his stroke right away [yesterday], he was confident. He wanted the ball, and when I got it, I was going to give it to him."
Jasikevicius hit four of six three-point attempts in the first half and finished the game shooting an impressive 64 percent. He made all six of his foul shots and added four assists and two steals.
"I felt I had to pick my game up, especially my shooting," Jasikevicius said. "I was feeling it out there. I was hot. When you can release the ball and know it's going in, it feels good."
Staples experienced no such emotions. He averages 15 points and shoots nearly 40 percent from beyond the three-point arc, but was held to just two three-pointers -- three field goals overall -- yesterday.
"Our main goal was to shut their three-point guys down," Stokes said. "Sarunas definitely did that."
When the Cavaliers rallied late in the game, Jasikevicius was there again, leaping in front of Staples' face to force a traveling violation, then hitting two foul shots at the other end.
"He can play some pretty good defense," Staples said. "He was on a roll with his shot, too. He had a pretty good overall game."
Pub Date: 1/05/97