Terps, although 2-0, have rebounding to do

Williams' practice agenda focusing on board work

College Basketball

November 22, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Before the Maryland men's basketball team can start dreaming about the bright lights of Manhattan, the Terrapins realize they have some housecleaning to tidy up.

So don't mention Wednesday's Preseason National Invitation Tournament semifinal showdown with No. 14 Kentucky. In fact, don't bring up tonight's home game against Fairleigh Dickinson.

The past two practices really haven't been devoted to either team. It's all been about what Maryland coach Gary Williams noticed during 2 1/2 hours of tape.

"We don't rebound. That's what I saw. We don't rebound -- that's a quote," Williams said. "We were very weak in rebounding, and maybe we'll show some improvement. We'd better. That's as bad of a job at rebounding since I've been here."

In their past three halves, the Terrapins (2-0) have been beaten on the boards by a 68-39 margin and have allowed 26 second-chance points while scoring six. In its 78-70 win over Tulane on Friday, Maryland had 20 defensive rebounds, just one more than the Green Wave had on that end.

The Terrapins, however, still have won their first two games, have connected on 51 percent of their shots and have caused an average of 25 turnovers. But concern remains about their ineffectiveness boxing out opponents and their lack of hustle underneath the basket.

After two games, Lonny Baxter and Terence Morris are the only two frontcourt players averaging more than three rebounds. Danny Miller, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, grabbed one rebound in 29 minutes Friday.

"Danny's a very aggressive player at the end of last year. He's not playing like that right now," Williams said. "Players get in slumps, like batters do in baseball. He's in one right now. He's got to play his way out of it. It's a big game for Danny."

Maryland is expected to fix its rebounding problem and troublesome free-throw shooting (58 percent) against Fairleigh Dickinson, the Teaneck, N.J., school that is predicted to finish in the middle of the Northeast Conference. The Knights lost at Cole Field House, 81-70, in their last visit, in 1997, but a video of that game won't be much help.

Of the 13 players on Fairleigh Dickinson's current roster, seven have one year of experience and the other six are rookies. The Knights have some size, with six players 6-8 or taller, but they don't expect that to be a factor.

"Maryland doesn't have to worry about getting out-rebounded by us," said Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tom Green, who has added seven foreign players since taking his team to the 1998 NCAA tournament. "That's one of our weakest areas. If anyone doesn't recognize me, I'll be the one gobbling Tums down on the court."

It's the season opener for Fairleigh Dickinson, which watched Maryland on television once, yet admitted to not preparing for the Terrapins specifically.

In hindsight, Maryland would probably have preferred not to play tonight. With a win Wednesday against Kentucky, the Terrapins will play their first six games in a stretch of 13 days. But with the possibility of losing in one of the first two Preseason NIT rounds, Maryland couldn't risk an 11-day layover so early in the season.

Even with this hectic schedule, the Terrapins said they are focused on Fairleigh Dickinson, despite the Knights' 12-16 record last season.

"It's never going to be dull this year," Williams said. "We've just talked about getting ready to play Monday night because we're not the type of team right now that can look past anybody. That's what you have to understand about this year's team. There's no walkovers here. Every game is a contest, believe me."

NOTES: Tickets are still available for tonight's game. To check on availability, call 1-800-464-8377.

Maryland has won a nation-leading 66 straight nonconference home games.

Picking up the microphone to Cole's public-address system, Williams addressed the fans after Friday's game about their booing Mike Mardesich, the Terrapins' 7-foot center. When asked why he felt that he needed to talk to his fans, Williams said: "Our fans have to root for our team. It's not selected rooting. You're either with us or against us, and that's the way it's got to be. I just didn't like hearing some stuff I heard from our fans."

Maryland blocked 14 shots against Tulane, tied for the fourth-best single-game total in school history.

The Terrapins are 8-0 against teams from New Jersey, including 4-0 against Fairleigh Dickinson.

Next for Terps

Opponent: Fairleigh Dickinson

When: Tonight, 8 p.m.

Where: Cole Field House, College Park

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

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