Vs. Hodge, Blake wins unanimous decision

January 31, 2003|By MIKE PRESTON

COLLEGE PARK - Maybe North Carolina State's Julius Hodge meant grocery list instead of hit list. Or was it a Christmas list, or a list of things to do later in the year?

Hodge said he wanted a piece of Steve Blake last night, and he got all of him. Blake had 20 points. Seven assists. Seven of 10 from the field last night - including 4-for-4 from three-point range. He asked for him and he got him. Maybe Hodge should talk less and play better. Take Blake off his list and forget about what happened last year, and last night, too.

If this was indeed a revenge game for Hodge, maybe he needs to wait until March 2, when the Terps make the trip to Raleigh, N.C. Hodge was on the court last night, but he didn't bring his A-game. This probably wasn't his B-plus game.

As for Blake, all he did was carry a struggling Maryland offense for the first 30 minutes of the game by hitting four straight three-pointers, and once the Terps got warmed up, No. 10 Maryland defeated N.C. State, 70-65, last night at the Comcast Center.

In case you are unaware, Hodge, the Wolfpack's multitalented forward/guard, basically borrowed a line from soul singer James Brown and declared this season as the year of the Big Payback. He declared that the Terps, especially Blake, were on his imaginary hit list.

The two players have a history. They won't inviting each other to dinner anytime soon.

Last year in Game 1, Blake reportedly got away with a shot to Hodge's midsection. In Game 2, Hodge retaliated with a forearm to the back of Blake's head, which resulted in Hodge being suspended for a game and Blake reportedly calling Hodge a "punk."

Round 3 last night was expected to be another verbal and physical exchange, but there were no cheap shots, or much trash-talking exchanged. All you saw were two of the best players in the Atlantic Coast Conference go head to head at times, and Blake came out the winner.

And it was so fun to watch.

There roles are so different, yet at the same time so similar. Hodge runs the Wolfpack offense, but at times he does it without the ball. He moves extremely well and is in constant motion trying to get the rest of his teammates involved in the offense.

Hodge had seven points in the first half shooting 2-for-5 from the field, but he also had four assists and two steals. He made a nifty pass inside the lane to center Melvin Marcus for an easy lay up with 16:53 left in the first half that put the Wolfpack ahead 7-4 and then connected on a three-point play by slicing through the lane for a layup with 12:30 remaining in the first half, and then hitting the follow up foul shot.

He connected on both ends of a one-and-one with 1:57 left, but 36 seconds later, the frustration began to show on his face. He wasn't getting the ball. He wasn't taking over the game, and Blake was lighting him up. Hodge drew Maryland's Calvin McCall and Nik Caner-Medley on the defensive end, but Blake had Hodge.

One on one. Man on man. He asked for it.

Blake used a cross-over dribble on Hodge, and then shot a jumper from the top of the key with 15:23 remaining in the first half, and the crowd went wild. Then Blake shot a two-pointer over Hodge with 8:16 remaining in the half. More hysterics from the crowd that had chanted Hodge's name before the game started.

Blake gave Hodge another three-point facial with about two minutes left in the half, and then dropped another three pointer with 1:39 left as Maryland went ahead 26-24.

If Hodge thought Blake was going to cool down in the second half, he was wrong. Blake opened the second quarter with a three-pointer, then blew by guard Clifford Crawford for a layup with 17:514 to play in the game. Blake's three-pointer with 16:36 left put Maryland ahead 38-34, and by then the rest of the Terps were warming up.

With 15:02 left in the game, Maryland went on 17-3 run for the next five minutes to enjoy a 55-41 lead, and make a rally by N.C. State a huge hill to climb.

But Blake wasn't done. He had two more assists in the final two and a half minutes of the game, both to Caner-Medley to put away the pesky Wolfpack. Caner-Medley scored on a layup with 2:42 left to put Maryland ahead 64-54, and then again with 2:16 left for a 66-54 lead.

It was just the encore for Blake. Hodge finished 3-for-8 from the field with 14 points. He had eight assists. It wasn't a bad night, but not a good night for a guy who was supposed to be head-hunting.

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