Terps flex inside muscle Ekezie, Morris push around Hofstra, power No. 6 Maryland, 89-59

November 21, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- The competition is getting better, and so is Maryland.

The nation's No. 6 team ripped Hofstra, 89-59, before a sellout crowd of 14,500 at Cole Field House last night, and that was not another cupcake Obinna Ekezie, Terence Morris and company devoured. The Flying Dutchmen themselves are thinking along the lines of an NCAA bid.

"In my five years at Villanova and two at UNLV, that's as good a team as I've seen," said coach Jay Wright, who began his fifth season at Hofstra. "Looking back, I wish we didn't play them in our first game, not that it would be a different outcome later.

Maryland can get you in a lot of ways."

Pressure and pounding the ball inside are constant themes for coach Gary Williams, who in Ekezie and Morris has two inviting targets for entry passes. The two combined for 15 free throws, one more than the Flying Dutchmen, as the Terps (3-0) went to their inside strength.

"We got the ball inside because we knew we had a big advantage there," said point guard Terrell Stokes, whose nine assists featured some lovely feeds to Ekezie. "Nobody from Hofstra could play Obinna, and when they doubled up, he's got the maturity to kick it back out."

Ekezie, the senior center from Nigeria, backed up the magazines that rate him one of the nation's best post players, as he collected 23 points and 11 rebounds, his second straight double-double. He asserted his 260 pounds on the block, and even nailed a set shot that was nearly a three-pointer.

While Ekezie matched his career scoring high, Morris established his, as the smooth 6-9 sophomore from Frederick had 22 and eight rebounds.

"Terence is amazing," Williams said. "He's so quiet, scoring 22 points in 24 minutes, you don't always appreciate what he's doing."

Maryland turned sloppy midway through the second half, when Williams left his starters in a tad too long "because they were playing so well, I wanted to see how long we could go before we died." Take away Morris' 7-for-7 at the line, the Terps missed too many free throws for a team that fancies itself a national championship contender.

The list of shortcomings is short for a team whose average margin of victory is 41.7 points. Maryland overcame an early deficit, then blew the game open with a shockingly quick 17-2 run that required just four minutes. The Terps began the second half with a 16-4 spurt that padded their cushion to 65-37.

Maryland struggled in the opening minutes, as three straight three-pointers got the Flying Dutchmen a 15-11 lead with 14: 35 left in the first half. Eight minutes later, Maryland was on top 36-19, as it squeezed the ball out of Hofstra and the suspense out of the game.

The Flying Dutchmen were within 19-17 when the Terps unleashed that 17-2 run. Hofstra has a seasoned team expected contend for a title in the America East Conference, but it was also playing its opener, and at one point Wright yelled "We're not running any of our stuff!"

It's hard to run sets when you can't get the ball past the time line. With Laron Profit spear-heading the full-court pressure, Hofstra crammed several turnovers into that exasperating stretch. It could have been worse, except another Maryland steal ended with Profit drawing a player-control foul.

Hofstra committed 14 turnovers in the first half. It averaged 15.6 last season, when it went 19-12.

Ekezie began both halves on a mission, as he scored seven points in the first four minutes of each session. The three-point play he converted with 16: 04 left that made it 61-37 was strong, but not as impressive as the assist he gave Steve Francis on the Terps' next possession.

Maryland will go for its 62nd straight non-conference win at Cole Monday night at 8 against Duquesne, and travel the next day to the Puerto Rico Shootout.

NOTES: The Flying Dutchmen got 20 points from sophomore forward Norman Richardson. Junior guard Craig Claxton had 16, but he needed 17 shots to get there against Stokes' defensive work. Stokes played 30 minutes and didn't score but wasn't bothered. Francis' 10 included two three-pointers. Hofstra plays an America East game at Towson Dec. 12.

Pub Date: 11/21/98

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