Maryland exhibits no problems Terps beat Australia, 71-65, in last tuneup

November 11, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- It was, for the Maryland basketball team, a night prime for disaster.

Their starting shooting guard, Sarunas Jasikevicius, watched from the sidelines in street clothes, nursing his sprained left ankle. The starting small forward, Laron Profit, spent the first half firing bricks. And starting center Obinna Ekezie was limited to seven first-half minutes because of foul trouble.

And yet it proved to be not much of a problem last night against an experienced Australian National team, as the Terrapins controlled the game early and held off the visitors in the second half for a 71-65 win before a crowd of 5,710 at Cole Field House.

With the win, Maryland finished 2-0 in its exhibition games, and seemed eager to get the season started on Friday against seventh-ranked South Carolina in Minneapolis.

"We are about as ready as we can be at this time of year," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "It's great to play somebody as good as South Carolina early. You get to find out what you really need to work on the rest of the year."

The Terrapins have demonstrated, in their two games, that they have balance. Profit shook off a 1-for-9 shooting performance in the first half to score 16 points in the second half, finishing with 18. Rodney Elliott (Dunbar) also scored 18, hitting six of nine shots.

And once again the freshmen stepped up and demonstrated their ability to give Maryland quality minutes. Mike Mardesich scored 11 points in 15 minutes, hitting five of eight shots. Terence Morris scored eight points in 21 minutes, scoring on some crowd-pleasing dunks.

"We've been saying all along that we have the depth," Profit said. "I think it really showed."

That the Terrapins won last night against a team that had played well in four previous exhibition games was even more impressive. Australia had won three of four going into last night, beating Illinois (87-61), Clemson (77-71) and Virginia (70-59). The only loss was to Duke, 87-82, on Saturday.

For Maryland, it was the first of two games to be played this season under experimental rules -- the main one playing four 10-minute quarters instead of two 20-minute halves. Elliott had a big first quarter, hitting five of six shots (three dunks, two layups) on the way to scoring 10.

"I wasn't trying to get into a game like last time," said Elliott, referring to the three fouls he picked up early in the win over Athletes in Action last week. "I just wanted to come out, play hard and establish position."

By the half, the Terrapins had a 35-28 lead, led by Elliott's 13 points and 11 points and seven rebounds from Mardesich. The obvious intent for Williams in the second half was to get Profit and Ekezie going. They combined to score four of Maryland's first five baskets of the second half.

Still, the Australian team fought back, mainly behind three-point shooting (nine of 22 for the game) and Maryland's poor free-throw shooting (14 of 27). Australia twice got to within two points in the final five minutes, but Profit scored Maryland's final eight points to seal the win.

"Laron had a bad night early, but he has been around and I knew that he would come around," Williams said. "We didn't do everything right, but we had the heart to hang in there."

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Pub Date: 11/11/97

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