Terrapins capture a 74-36 yawner Williams wins 150th at UM in rout of UNC-Wilmington

December 28, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Gary Williams recorded his 150th victory as Maryland's basketball coach yesterday, watching his Terps rout North Carolina-Wilmington, 74-36, at Cole Field House.

But Williams, in his ninth year at College Park, insisted he was not aware of the milestone before the game.

"You just get as many wins as you can," he said.

And, if the truth be told, the Terps' performance was not one to be particularly savored.

In essence, it was a final tuneup for the No. 20 Terps (7-3), who, after a visit to Missouri on Tuesday, head into the heart of their ACC competition by playing host to No. 3 Duke on Saturday night.

After consecutive 100-point outbursts in its previous two games against UMBC and UNC-Asheville, Maryland struggled with its half-court offense against the Seahawks (5-6), who also limited the number of transition baskets to less than a handful.

"You can't score over 100 points every game," Williams said. "We weren't really sharp offensively, but Wilmington did a good job of shortening the game. They do a lot of passing on offense to run the clock down and they hustled back on defense.

"But I was impressed by our team defense. Defense will be the key for us all season, especially when we get into conference play."

Maryland, however, had little to fear from UNC-Wilmington offensively. Any chance the Seahawks had of being competitive ended before the game began when coach Jerry Wainwright benched junior guard Steve Simmons, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, for disciplinary reasons. Simmons had missed a team practice Christmas night.

UNC-Wilmington actually led 9-8 after senior guard Mark Byington made a three-pointer with 15: 34 remaining in the first half.

But the Terps, led by senior forward Rodney Elliott (Dunbar), outscored the visitors, 31-5, the rest of the half and the crowd of 10,632 had an opportunity to see Williams use all his reserves in the second half.

Elliott tied his career high for points (22) and grabbed a personal-record 14 rebounds, including 13 on the defensive end.

But it was his all-out hustle that helped the Terps limit the Seahawks to 17 percent (6-for-34) shooting in the first half and 22 percent (15-for-67) for the game.

"I know Rodney likes the points, but, personally, I liked his 14 rebounds even better," Williams said. "He really asserted himself defensively, rebounding and diving for loose balls."

Said Elliott: "We didn't want them to feel comfortable getting the ball up the floor. We wanted to create as hostile a home-court environment as possible.

"Offensively, I can't put my finger on it. We have to work more on our half-court execution. But, defensively, we did a good job of limiting them to one shot until the final minutes."

In addition to Elliott, Williams got a solid offensive effort from junior center Obinna Ekezie (14 points). Ekezie, 6 feet 10, was matched in size by Oleg Kojenets but proved too quick for the junior pivotman from Minsk, Belarus.

Kojenets scored eight of his team-high 10 points in the second half, playing mostly against Maryland freshman Mike Mardesich.

Searching for reasons for the offensive drop-off, Williams suggested it was a combination of holiday blahs and the absence of serious competition before ACC play.

"Teams have to be emotional to play their best," he said. "A lot had to do with where this game fell on our schedule. But the lack of emotion was not reflected by our defensive play. The effort was there all game."

With few easy baskets, Elliott and Ekezie carried the Terps' offense. Junior swingman Laron Profit, who was averaging a team-high 18.4 points, attempted only five shots in 24 minutes and scored a season-low four points.

But Williams showed no concern.

"Our offense isn't built around one guy scoring 20 or 30 points," he said. "We have to pass the ball around to be successful."

For Williams, the mismatch was mostly a chance to test different lineups. At one point in the first half, his front line consisted of three freshmen -- Terence Morris, Mardesich and LaRon Cephas. The newcomers managed to more than hold their own. It was that kind of a game.

Pub Date: 12/28/97

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