With chips down, Terps' fresh faces bloom Mardesich, Morris show growth spurts in crunch

January 15, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland coach Gary Williams took a good look into the eyes of Mike Mardesich and Terence Morris during the latter stages of last night's game against No. 1 North %J Carolina.

He was searching for something specific, something that would tell him if these two freshmen would crumble under the weight of such immense pressure.

Williams was relieved by what he didn't find.

"There was no fear," he said.

And, it turned out, no reason to worry when junior center Obinna Ekezie and senior forward Rodney Elliott fouled out. Mardesich matched his career high with 12 points, including the basket with 46 seconds remaining that forced overtime, and Morris added 10 points as the Terrapins danced off the Cole Field House floor with an 89-83 victory.

Ekezie scored 16 before going to the bench for good with 2: 27 left in regulation. Elliott also had 16 points when he was whistled for his fifth foul with 4: 01 left in overtime after trying to rebound his own missed shot. If there was an appropriate time for Maryland to panic, this was it.

Instead, the kids were all right.

"To see us be able to compete when we were in foul trouble was certainly a key," Williams said. "Mike Mardesich just stepped up really big. He wanted the ball down the stretch. And Terence Morris was great."

Mardesich, a 7-foot redshirt freshman from Boston, grabbed an air ball from Elliott and scored for the last points of regulation, then put in a soft one-hander in the lane to begin overtime. He missed two free throws with 29 seconds left and Maryland ahead by three, but no damage was done.

Morris, the former Thomas Johnson standout, tied the score at 80 on a dunk off a bounce pass from Sarunas Jasikevicius. He also made one free throw with 50 seconds remaining for an 85-82 lead after missing the front end of a one-and-one 26 seconds earlier.

"If you had asked me three years ago if I would be on the court against No. 1 North Carolina, I would have said you were crazy," said Mardesich, who also had nine rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes. "It was a long road and I'm just so happy right now."

Morris wouldn't change what transpired last night, even when Maryland's fortunes appeared their bleakest. He hit a three-pointer from the corner for a 39-37 lead late in the first half, blocked two shots and soared for a couple of dunks off lob passes.

"We knew when Obinna and Rodney fouled out we had to step up on offense and defense, and Mike and I did," Morris said.

Morris was averaging 6.3 points before last night, Mardesich 5.9. The Atlantic Coast Conference can sharpen the growing pains of any freshman. Against the Tar Heels, the maturation process seemed to accelerate.

"Those two guys grew up in about five minutes," Elliott said.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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