UM blooms as favorite son shines No. 24 Owls wilt, 83-66, as Dunbar's Elliott gets 20 points, 17 rebounds

13,741 see rout at Arena

18-9 Terps go to 5-5 against ranked teams

March 01, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The high regard that Rodney Elliott's teammates have for him was evident in the effort that they put into his curtain call at the Baltimore Arena yesterday.

Elliott is a favorite son fostered by one of the city's institutions, Dunbar High basketball, and his final regular-season game for Maryland turned into a celebration. The senior scored 20 points and snatched a career-high 17 rebounds, as the Terps pounded the No. 24 Temple Owls, 83-66, for their third straight win, and their most decisive of 1998.

"Senior Day was good, but this was even better," Elliott said. "That was a storybook ending."

Actually, coach Gary Williams hopes that his team's tale is just starting. Earlier marquee wins over Kansas and North Carolina had already given his Terps (18-9) reason to feel good about themselves, and yesterday's outcome only added to their confidence heading into the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum this week.

There were as many layers to this game as there are players in Williams' eight-man rotation.

The game drew a crowd of 13,741, the most ever to see the Terps play in Baltimore. They rocked from the start, when Sarunas Jasikevicius gave Maryland a lead it would never surrender with two quick three-pointers, to the end, when bench-warmer Matt Hahn flipped a behind-the-back bounce pass to the trailing Terence Morris for a monster dunk.

Williams was able to lift his starters at the end because they never let up, as Maryland's lead never was fewer than 10 in the last 16 minutes. Temple (19-7), which meets Massachusetts today in an important Atlantic 10 game, is a proud bunch, and yesterday marked the first time this season in which John Chaney's team was unable to narrow a halftime deficit.

After the outside-in victory, Williams praised Maryland's mature approach. The Terps dropped in eight three-pointers in the first half, then attempted only three in the second, as they found other ways to thwart the Owls' vaunted matchup zone.

The Terps had four threes in the first eight minutes alone, when they jumped to an 18-6 lead. Freshman Lynn Greer came off the bench and fueled a Temple run that allowed the Owls to force ties at 28 and 35, but Maryland came out of both deadlocks with pivotal plays off whistles which Chaney didn't like.

First, Temple's Keaton Sanders was called for an intentional foul on Elliott. He made one of the two free throws, and the possession that came with the call resulted in Elliott finding Jasikevicius for a three with 2: 12 left in the half.

Two more free throws by Elliott got the Terps a 37-35 lead with 35.2 seconds remaining. After Temple was called for a five-second violation on the in-bounds play, Maryland ran the clock down until Mike Mardesich kicked out to Laron Profit deep in the right corner for a 40-35 halftime lead which had Chaney charging official Bryan Kersey.

"A good official will count off up to a thousand five, then blow the whistle," said Chaney, as obtuse as ever. "[Kersey] got to a thousand four and blew the whistle. It's better for the young guys to hide behind the rule book rather than their resume."

Maryland didn't rest in the second half. Elliott assisted Marde- sich for a 50-39 bulge with 16: 13 left, and the margin was never fewer than 10 points as the Terps again dispelled the notion that they're not a good half-court team. Twenty-three of their baskets were assisted.

Williams has occasionally relied on a 3-2 zone this season, and facing it in practice last week was the best preparation for Temple. The Terps couldn't have spotted their shooters any better, and the earliest beneficiary was Jasikevicius, the senior guard from Lithuania by way of Lancaster, Pa.

Jasikevicius overcame fluid buildup in his left knee and scored 19 points on a career-high five three-pointers, as many as he had made in the five previous games. His defensive work was an overlooked factor, as he never let Rasheed Brokenborough get untracked in the first half, and made life more difficult for Greer in the second.

Profit's team-high 21 were quiet until the end, as two free throws with 32.2 seconds left shoved him past 1,000 for his career. Point guard Terrell Stokes, a native of Philadelphia, earned bragging rights back in his hometown with a five-assist, one-turnover effort in which he seemed to force nothing.

If there was a revelation in this one, it was the passing by Maryland's big men, as Elliott, Ekezie and Mardesich combined for eight assists. The perimeter players had a remarkable passing game in Raleigh when they beat N.C. State in January, and the unselfishness started on the inside yesterday.

"That's the best passing by our big men all year," Williams said.

When Maryland whipped Penn at the Arena last season, Elliott made his first nine shots, most in transition. The going wasn't as easy against Temple, as he struggled through a 1-for-6 first half, but kept coming back for more. He attempted 16 free throws, three fewer than the Owls.

And his rebounding? The building hadn't seen a forward as possessed with his board work since Gus Johnson worked here for the Bullets in the 1960s. An hour after the game, Elliott was still on the job, signing autographs outside the Arena.

"When Rodney came out of Dunbar they told him he was nuts to go to Maryland," Williams said. "He's been a tremendous person to have in our program."

NOTES: Brokenborough and center Lamont Barnes, the only Owls averaging in double figures, combined for two baskets in the first half. Barnes backed in for 15 of his 22 in the second half, and by design, the Terps didn't double down on him. The Terps are 5-5 against ranked teams this season.

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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