RALEIGH, N.C. -- Today marks the middle of the regular season for Maryland's basketball team, and coach Gary Williams is still fine-tuning his rotation.
The Terps thought they were going to have to go big to beat No. 13 Florida State on Wednesday. But when the Seminoles got in foul trouble, Maryland iced its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory of the season with a lineup that included three guards and lean Laron Profit seemingly out of position at power forward.
That sounds like a combination that would serve the Terps well today (noon, ESPN), when they play at North Carolina State, one of the smallest and most patient teams in the ACC. It's rarely that simple, however, for a team that has started two point guards and waited on the education of four freshmen.
"This isn't like a football game, where they script the first 18 plays," Williams said. "You've got to read who's playing well and go from there. Basketball is such an up-and-down game, each night the five that are playing well might be different. Even though you've got a starting lineup, you've got to match up."
For the first time since a disturbing Dec. 8 loss to George Washington, the first five could include Terrell Stokes, the junior point guard who was benched in favor of senior Matt Kovarik.
Stokes had 10 points, three assists and no turnovers against Florida State; Kovarik didn't attempt a shot, committed four turnovers and had one assist. Before yesterday's practice at Cole Field House, Williams said he wasn't sure who would start today, but Stokes thought he would get another shot.
"I think so," Stokes said when asked if he would start against the Wolfpack (9-4, 1-2). "If I don't, it won't change the way I play."
Any point guard controversy is lost on Williams.
"People keep talking about who's starting at the point, but the important thing is that both can play, and both can play at the same time," Williams said. "They aren't the only ones who can start the offense.
"Laron [Profit] started four or five offensive plays in the second half as the point guard the other night, and that was with Terrell or Matt in the game. That's a different set we want to look at. That takes advantage of [Profit] being 6-6 at the point."
Maryland (8-5, 1-2) needs its veterans to be as flexible as possible, because Williams is favoring an eight-man rotation. He used only seven in the second half against Florida State, when freshman forward Terence Morris, who is still adjusting from the pivot to the perimeter, never came off the bench.
A 6-foot-8 high school All-American from Frederick, Morris has been caught flat-footed on defense.
"[Morris] didn't do anything that game to hurt himself," Williams said. "That's just the way that game went."
While 7-foot center Mike Mardesich is coming off of his most active game of the season, forward LaRon Cephas has seen only garbage time the past three games. The other freshman, Juan Dixon, joined the Terps at the end of the first semester, and the guard from Calvert Hall has accepted the fact that he'll be redshirted.
"That's in his best interest," Williams said. "Unless he can play 15-20 minutes a game, why play this season? It's tough when you don't know everything that we're doing, but he's made us a better team in practice. I'm not sure part of the way we played against Florida State was the fact that Juan is so tough to cover."
Over the past two days, Dixon has played the part of C. C. Harrison, the N.C. State guard who's one of the best one-on-one players in the ACC. Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek has gone with three guards and two freshmen, Ron Kelley at center and Kenny Inge at forward. They must stop the post play of Obinna Ekezie and Rodney Elliott.
Maryland has won the past three meetings at Reynolds Coliseum, and it needs another one, since No. 1 North Carolina is up next at Cole on Wednesday.
Pub Date: 1/10/98