Maryland races past Princeton Deliberate foe pressed into 81-58 rout before record Arena crowd

Terps force 29 turnovers

Tigers allow 2nd-most points in a decade

December 20, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Different town, same result.

No. 5 Maryland turned what could have been a difficult date with Princeton into another in a series of blowouts, as the Terps got a grand game from Laron Profit, scored 16 straight points early and ran to an 81-58 victory over the Tigers last night before 13,489, the largest crowd in the history of the 36-year-old Baltimore Arena.

Stung by the poor defensive work that led to its only loss seven days earlier, at No. 3 Kentucky, Maryland came out with resolve and pounced on a young Princeton team. The Tigers (5-3) never got to the back door, because the Terps (11-1) ambushed them out on the sidewalk.

Princeton averaged just over 12 turnovers in its first seven games. It had eight in the game's first six minutes, as its motion and cuts could not solve Maryland's traps and help during a four-minute stretch in which the Terps turned a 3-2 lead into a 19-2 bulge.

The Tigers lost the ball 29 times, easily a season high and also the most turnovers forced by the Terps this season. Princeton has allowed more points only once in the last decade, and it was the Ivy League power's most lopsided loss since 1992-93.

"Twenty-nine turnovers, that must be some kind of record, at least for us," said Princeton coach Bill Carmody, whose Tigers still managed to hit 55.3 percent of their shots, the best mark against Maryland this season. "You can draw up Xs and Os, but their Xs were a lot faster than our Os. It seemed any time they wanted to turn up the heat they could."

The rout concluded exam week and marked the seventh straight season in which coach Gary Williams brought Maryland to the Arena, where his record improved to 6-1.

Princeton was first in the nation in scoring defense, but Maryland came in averaging 86.3 points, 27.4 more than the opposition.

The deliberate Tigers are not the easiest opponent in college basketball to break out against, but Profit, the senior wing, did. He had 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting, as his two three-pointers were double his total from Maryland's first 11 games.

Shooting guard Steve Francis had 12 points, a team-high six rebounds, four assists and four steals, and local hero Juan Dixon chipped in 13 points, as the redshirt freshman from Calvert Hall made three of his four three-pointers.

"I like these rims, they're real wide," Dixon said. "I like playing here. It was my first time, and I enjoyed it. Laron enjoyed it, too."

When it was 33-17 with three minutes left in the first half, Profit had 11 points, one-third of the Terps' total. That's how many he had combined for in national showdowns with Stanford and Kentucky, but Williams told the senior from Dover, Del., not to worry about his shot, as long as he rebounded and played defense.

"I learned today," Profit said, "that I just had to go out and let it fly."

Profit's short jumper from the left baseline began the 16-0 run, which, considering the opponent and its style, was as sturdy as the 20-0 spurt Maryland laid on Pittsburgh at the Puerto Rico Shootout.

After Francis converted a steal, point guard Terrell Stokes set up Profit on the right wing. He had missed seven straight behind the arc since his only success of the season, again in that Pittsburgh game, but he made this one.

Morris put back a miss by Obinna Ekezie, Profit made two free throws and Dixon dropped in a three from the left wing and Maryland had that 19-2 cushion with 13: 35 left in the first half.

The Tigers trimmed a 42-23 halftime deficit with seven straight points, but the Terps pressed the accelerator again. Their first 20-point lead, at 50-30 with 15: 03 left, supplied the dunk du jour, as Francis stripped point guard Dan Earl at midcourt and brought the ball behind his back before he finished with a slam.

Earl, who needed one three-pointer to become Princeton's all-time leader in that category, didn't get it until the 29th minute. Gabe Lewullis, Princeton's only other senior contributor, was pretty much the Tigers' offense early in the second half, when he had 15 of his 20.

A jumper from the foul line by Francis got Maryland a 56-34 spread with 12: 40 left. Princeton was within 60-46 with seven minutes left, but the Terps answered with a 15-2 run, which included Profit's second three-pointer.

"We got off to a great start, and our depth allowed us to keep playing at that level," said Williams, who got 26 points from his bench. "We gambled that Princeton wouldn't hurt us going against our pressure. You can talk all you want about offense, but tonight, our defense was the catalyst that allowed us to score."

Williams expected to win, but not to pummel Princeton.

"That surprised me," he said.

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