Maryland gets visit from 'kin' UMBC tries its luck against No. 6 Terps

November 17, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- To nearly everyone in the state, the local entry in the Atlantic Coast Conference is referred to as Maryland. On a campus in Catonsville, however, the best-known member of the state system is called College Park. That campus belongs to UMBC, 27 miles away and decades of basketball tradition behind the Terps.

"I look at them as the big brother in the state system," Retrievers coach Tom Sullivan said. "I've told our players about growing up with a bigger brother. When you're 5 and he's 8, he beats you up, but you think you'll catch up. When you're 11 and he's 14, it's still happening, though.

"Eventually, you realize you had better be really tricky to beat him up."

There will be no sleight of hand necessary on Maryland's part tonight (8 p.m.) when the nation's No. 6 team meets UMBC at Cole Field House. Just like they did last December in a 104-66 victory, the Terps (1-0) want to use their superior talent and pressure to wear down the Retrievers (0-1), who are a year older and wiser.

Maryland is planning on its sixth straight trip to the NCAAs. UMBC has never been to the Division I tournament, although Sullivan's young team is a promising dark horse in its first season in the Northeast Conference. While he's confident his team will improve, Sullivan knows the Terps have.

UMBC started four freshmen against Maryland last year. It led 14-6 before the Terps' pressure defense triggered a 35-10 run over a six-minute span. Maryland spanked Western Carolina, 113-46, in last Saturday's opener, and coach Gary Williams' lone regret was that he had to call off the pressure earlier than desired in the program's most lopsided win ever.

"We can get better in the press," senior point guard Terrell Stokes said. "It needs work, but I think we'll be a great pressing team because everyone will be fresh."

Despite the energy Maryland displayed against Western Carolina, it was rarely out of control, as evidenced in Stokes' ratio of a school-record 15 assists to just one turnover. With the addition of such talent as junior-college All-American Steve Francis and three able freshmen, Sullivan sees a Maryland roster perfectly suited to Williams' style.

"The ability of their press to disrupt a system is phenomenal," Sullivan said. "You look at what Gary does, and he's able to create a great deal of havoc, confusion. They [the Terps] react in those situations, and the other team does not. You end up with forwards and centers handling the ball in positions they're not accustomed to."

Like most teams on Maryland's schedule, UMBC wants to get the Terps in a half-court game. The Retrievers rarely encountered full-court pressure in last Friday's season-opening, 84-56 loss at Pitt, but their backcourt of point guard Terence Ward and three-point ace Rich Giddens ran into other problems.

"Against Pitt, our backcourt's size was a problem," Sullivan said. "Pitt physically pushed our backcourt away from the basket. We're working on our guards being able to handle the physical nature of the game, but it's hard for us to simulate that in practice."

The Retrievers don't have as many big bodies up front, but in center Nick Grella (6 feet 8, 270) and forward Kennedy Okafor (6-7, 250), they've got good size for a mid-major. Isaac Green, the other starting forward, said Maryland last season was the toughest team this group has faced, and the Retrievers want a better showing against the Terps.

"We're scrapping," Sullivan said. "You know going into game like this, if we cannot hustle with these teams, we're going to be in a great deal of trouble."

Especially against your big brother.

NOTES: Maryland is 9-0 all-time against UMBC, 7-0 under Williams. The closest call came six years ago, when the Terps won, 89-80. Maryland last lost at Cole on Dec. 12, 1989, to a Coppin State team that featured Larry Stewart. Two days later, Fang Mitchell's Eagles lost at UMBC. The 33 assists the Terps had against Western Carolina were just three shy of the school record. Giddens prepped at Long Island (N.Y.) Lutheran, where Terps recruit Drew Nicholas is a senior. This will be Maryland's BTC only game against an in-state opponent this season.

Streaking Terps

Maryland's non-conference win streak at Cole Field House is the second longest in the nation.

Streak .. .. .. Team .. .. .. .. .. Began

79 .. .. .. . Oklahoma St. .. .. 12/10/87

59 .. .. .. . Maryland .. .. ... 12/30/89

50 .. .. .. . North Carolina .... 2/21/89

Pub Date: 11/17/98

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