Battle of backcourts to grow with Arizona Stokes, Jasikevicius pass Utah State, Illinois tests

Maryland notebook

March 15, 1998|By Paul McMullen and Kent Baker | Paul McMullen and Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Next up for Maryland is the All-American backcourt of Arizona's Mike Bibby and Miles Simon, and being shortchanged in comparisons is nothing new for the Terps' Terrell Stokes and Sarunas Jasikevicius.

In the first round of the NCAA tournament, Maryland beat a guard-oriented Utah State team. In the second round yesterday, the Terps were up against one of the best backcourts in the Big Ten, and Jasikevicius and Stokes outscored Illinois' Kevin Turner and Matt Heldman, 30-19.

Stokes, the junior point guard from Philadelphia, doubled his scoring average with 10. The last of his points came on a three-pointer with 3: 54 left that gave the Terps a 57-54 lead.

"That was one of the plays we always run for Terrell, to hit that three," coach Gary Williams said, tongue firmly in cheek before he turned serious about Stokes. "The fact that he had seven assists and just two turnovers in a big game like this is important. He was really a warrior out there today."

fTC Stokes missed beyond the arc on Maryland's next two possessions, but he felt confident after he had made two of his first five threes.

"I was wide open," Stokes said. "I had to take those shots. I've got enough confidence in my shot."

Illinois' strategy was to take its chances with Stokes, and deny looks inside to center Obinna Ekezie.

"It was a case of having to choose your poison a little bit," Illinois coach Lon Kruger said. "We didn't want them to go inside too easily, so we put the crowd in there. We dropped off Stokes, realizing he's a good player, but we had to play the percentages."

The last time Stokes had more points than Laron Profit, the Terps' leading scorer on the season, was a Dec. 4 loss at Clemson. Profit had all nine of his points in the first half, but Stokes and Jasikevicius more than picked up the slack, as the senior shooting guard was 7-for-11 from the field. He missed just one attempt in the second half, and was a perfect 4-for-4 beyond the arc.

Struggling to the end

Jasikevicius was just as impressive at the defensive end, making it a rough afternoon for Illinois' All-Big Ten guard Kevin Turner.

Turner did not score until the second half and never truly got his offensive game going.

Turner finished with 10 points on 4-for-15 from the floor.

"He was real aggressive," Turner said of Jasikevicius, who guarded Turner along with Matt Kovarik. "He put a hand up on a lot of my shots, extended a lot and contested a lot. He did a good job of getting through screens."

So Turner's final collegiate game did not have a happy ending, although he did manage to score in double figures for the 30th time in 33 games this season.

"We didn't come in thinking this game was our last," Turner said of the five Illini senior starters. "But, despite this, there are going to be a lot of fond memories."

Kruger's lament

Kruger thought the Illini lacked aggression in the first half.

"We were a little bit on our heels," he said. "We came out a little more aggressive for the second half, taking the ball to the basket and making plays for each other."

Still, he was proud of his all-senior lineup, which led the team to a 23-10 record.

"I'll remember this group as consistent in readiness to play," he said. "I'm really proud in what they accomplished."


The referees let the players play, and Illinois didn't attempt a free throw in the first 29 minutes. Williams is in the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in his coaching career. Rodney Elliott was one rebound shy of his fifth double double in the last seven games. In between verses of some indiscernible ditty about California in the locker room, Profit said he was exhausted after his matchup with Jerry Hester, and the feeling went both ways. Profit was 4-for-12 from the field, Hester 6-for-15.

Pub Date: 3/15/98

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