Williams makes a point, then Profit makes more Forward takes charge, breaks out of slump with 20, key plays

February 06, 1997|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- The advice Maryland coach Gary Williams gave to Laron Profit before last night's game against North Carolina State was short, simple and to the point.

"I told him, 'Don't worry about reacting. You create the action. You just create and let them react to you,' " Williams said.

Maybe it wasn't the stuff of coaching genius, but his words were heeded and the slump ended.

Profit's 20 points last night were the most he had scored in two months. He went 8-for-13 from the field, had six steals and no turnovers, and sparked the seventh-ranked Terrapins' 66-55 victory at Cole Field House.

"It was good to see Laron step it up," Williams said. "The players did a good job looking for him."

They had to like what they saw.

Profit hit his first shot, then passed to Keith Booth for a dunk. He made a three-pointer at the top of the key, twice dunked lob passes from Sarunas Jasikevicius and grabbed an errant shot from Brian Watkins in mid-air and scored.

All of this took place in the first half, and his 11 points were more than he had scored in losses to Florida State (five) and Wake Forest (nine). Before that, he had 16 against Duke, but only four against Pennsylvania at the Baltimore Arena, when he complained of a cold, and had a jump shot to match.

"I wanted to come out tonight and try to provide a spark or a lift," he said.

When asked if he sensed any frustration brewing from Profit's offensive struggles, Williams smiled and asked, "On his part or my part?"

"Any time a good player thinks he should be playing at a certain level and he's not, he starts searching for answers," Williams said. "Laron really researches everything. Sometimes, it would be in Laron's best interest to just go and play and not worry about, 'If I do this, what happens over here?' He has great fundamental things on the court he can do when he just goes. I thought he played a lot looser."

He played a lot -- 39 minutes, a stark contrast to his foul-plagued game against Wake Forest on Saturday, when he was on the bench for crucial stretches.

"I felt like, for our team to be successful, I had to be a part of it," he said. "I know some guys had played a lot of minutes and I should be somewhat fresher because I didn't play that much Saturday, so I wanted to come out and be especially aggressive tonight."

Profit hit one of the game's most important shots in the second half, matching a three-pointer by the Wolfpack's Danny Strong to extend Maryland's lead to 44-37.

He came up big again with the score 46-41 and 8: 50 left, stealing the ball and driving in for the layup despite getting slapped hard on the hand by Ishua Benjamin. The ensuing free throw put Maryland on top 49-41.

Williams "stressed to me he didn't want me to think about what I was doing," Profit said. "He just wanted me to just play, and if I made mistakes being aggressive, then he would have nothing to say about it. He just wanted me to stay aggressive all night."

He stayed loose and stayed aggressive. It made sense if you were at Cole Field House last night.

"As a basketball player, you think if you're in a slump, maybe you need to be working extra on your game," Jasikevicius said. "He did it, and he's out of his slump now, hopefully."

It sure looked that way.

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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