UM's Ekezie talks the talk, walks the walk in defeat Center battles friends, foes in strong showing

March 08, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The stroll was as outrageous as a Barry Bonds home run trot. If only the game could have ended then for Maryland and Obinna Ekezie.

Maryland's junior center from Lagos, Nigeria, had struggled with his shooting in mid-February, but had come on lately, and he made a statement at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

He was scoreless in the first 16 minutes of the second half of yesterday's semifinal loss to North Carolina, however, and furious with himself after his errant pass gave the Tar Heels a 60-59 lead with 3: 36 left. Ekezie loudly bickered with point guard Terrell Stokes during a 20-second timeout, and kept yelling once play resumed, for the ball.

His foul-line jumper returned the lead to the Terps. After Ed Cota's drive, Ekezie put Maryland back on top with a low-post fadeaway on which he was fouled. Before he completed his three-point play, Ekezie first walked to the foul line at the other end of the floor and stared down several thousand Tar Heels fans.

What were Ekezie and Stokes yelling at each other?

"It was nothing major," Ekezie said. "I had the turnover, and we had a little argument."

Ekezie's defense spoke volumes, as he leaned on junior forward Antawn Jamison, who had 36 points in their game last month in Chapel Hill. Jamison said he was slowed by a groin injury that he developed in warm-ups, but Ekezie was a bigger pain.

"They did a great job of pushing us out of the hole," Shammond Williams said of Maryland's interior defense. "It's easy to do that with two hands. Antawn was posting up great, but sometimes he'd come flying out of there."

Ekezie and freshman reserve Mike Mardesich got help as the perimeter players made entry passes to Jamison more difficult. The Terps went to their 3-2 zone late, in part to combat the penetration of junior forward Vince Carter, who had 18 points.

Ice man

The wild and crazy closing minutes climaxed with Maryland coach Gary Williams using a timeout and attempting what would have been an illegal substitution to ice a Shammond Williams free-throw attempt, which would have won it for North Carolina in regulation.

"I was trying to get the game started as quickly as possible," Williams deadpanned. "They kept delaying it at the table, and I tried to help out as best I could. I wanted to get Terence Morris into the game instead of Matt Kovarik, but I'm thinking 'I don't think I can get away with this one.' I don't know that rule. I didn't spend enough time last summer studying the rule book."

Et cetera

Stokes had 14 assists and one turnover in two games here. Rodney Elliott made four of his eight shots in the first half, but went 2-for-9 the rest of the way. He also struggled at the free-throw line, where he went 2-for-7. Four of the past eight Maryland-North Carolina games have gone to overtime. Freshman Morris played a season-high 25 minutes.

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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