Terps look Fairleigh awesome

104-45 rout of Dickinson sends Maryland off to Garden with big smile

`Everything went right'

23-1 start decides it early

Nicholas hits 27

November 23, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- If everything went according to plan, the Maryland basketball team knew it would compete in six games over 13 days. Well, now make that compete in five games.

Scoring 23 of the game's first 24 points, the No. 24 Terrapins didn't have to work very hard in routing overmatched Fairleigh Dickinson, 104-45, before 13,724 at Cole Field House last night. Maryland (3-0) jumped on a bus immediately after the game for tomorrow's Preseason National Invitation Tournament semifinal against No. 11 Kentucky in New York's Madison Square Garden.

The 59-point victory was the eighth-largest in school history for Maryland, which never let the lead dip below 40 points for the final 13 minutes. More importantly, it provided a well-timed breath of relief for a team that won its first two games by 10 and eight points.

Backup freshman guard Drew Nicholas scored 27 points, hitting four three-pointers to lead a 45-point contribution by the Maryland bench. Junior guard Juan Dixon added 17 of his 21 points in the first half as no starter played more than 26 minutes.

"It was one of those nights where everything went right," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "It's tough to say how well we played. But I think there was a significant difference in our effort early in the game."

It was apparent where last night's game was headed when Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tom Green walked over to the scoring table with his team trailing 11-1 and said, "So how many life lines do I have left?"

Although he was alluding to the TV game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" the better question might be: Who would want to have been Fairleigh Dickinson's coach last night?

The Knights (0-1), with no one on their roster with more than one year in their program, missed on their first 10 shots and didn't make a basket until 7: 51 into the game. They shot an air ball on their first shot as well as their second free throw of the game. They committed 17 of 30 turnovers in the first half, six of which occurred from trying to inbound the ball against a full-court pressure that Maryland usually springs on teams later in games.

It was an early indication that Maryland wanted this game over early and disposed of Fairleigh Dickinson quicker than it took the team to pack for its Thanksgiving trip to Manhattan.

The Terps converted on eight of their first 11 shots and Dixon racked up nine points in the opening 3 1/2 minutes. After a layup and two free throws by Mike Mardesich, Maryland had already cruised to a 23-1 lead 7: 28 into the game.

Point guard Khalid Coursey ended the Knights' nearly eight-minute field-goal drought on a layup, but Maryland wouldn't allow Fairleigh Dickinson to break double figures until eight minutes remained in the first half.

That's when Maryland put the Knights away for good. Scoring 14 straight points in 3 1/2 minutes, the Terps inflated the lead to 48-17 on Dixon's put-back with three minutes remaining in the half.

"We learned how to put away a team," Dixon said. "We did that today. We never let them back in it."

How sweet of a night was it for Maryland?

Midway through the first half, Dixon lobbed an alley-oop pass too hard for Lonny Baxter and it still went into the basket. The Terrapins scored 45 points off turnovers, matching Fairleigh Dickinson's entire output. And Maryland had two more rebounds in the first half (29) than it did all game against Tulane on Friday.

"I know that we were playing a team that was ranked No. 24 in America," Green said. "If you asked me to vote right now, I'd vote them a lot higher."

The only drama in the second half revolved around breaking the century mark. The Terrapins answered that question with an authoritative, two-hand dunk by LaRon Cephas with 1: 12 remaining. Maryland reached their largest lead at 104-45 just 40 seconds later, when 6-foot-10 freshman forward Tahj Holden hit a three-pointer.

The Terps entered last night with two primary objectives: provide some rest for their starters and show they can rebound. Check both off.

Not only did the starters, who have averaged 31 minutes and 89 percent of their scoring, sit for their longest stretch, Williams had the chance to experiment. Forward Danny Miller received his first taste of point guard, running the offense for 10 minutes in the second half, and Maryland logged its most minutes of zone defense this year.

Plus Maryland, which was out-rebounded in its first two games, displayed tenacity on the boards for a 47-28 margin. The Terrapins scored 14 second-chance points while allowing just two shots after offensive rebounds in the first half.

"The rebounding was good to see. Whether it's there or not, we'll see Wednesday night," said Williams, who admitted taking a peek at some film of Kentucky before last night's game.

"We know we can play. It's just a matter of letting it go sometimes. We have to prove that we can do this night in and night out. This is the way we have to play to be good. If we can sustain this for the next couple weeks, I'd be pretty happy."

NOTES: Maryland debuted at No. 24 in the Associated Press poll yesterday after being ranked in its top 10 for all 18 weeks of the 1998-99 season. Former Terrapins Rodney Elliott (BayRunners), Laron Profit (Washington Wizards) and Obinna Ekezie (Vancouver Grizzlies) were in attendance last night.

Next for Terps

Opponent: No. 11 Kentucky

What: Preseason NIT semifinals

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

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