Error-laden Terps may turn over ballhandling chores to McLinton


What does a team that has played four games in eight days need?

The obvious answer is a day off and Maryland coach Gary Williams gave his mentally and physically weary Terrapins just that yesterday on the other side of Monday's 100-85 loss to Boston College and Saturday's 90-85 setback at West Virginia.

"We haven't had a day off since we got started and I wanted to give them a chance to get themselves rested and back into the academic swing," said Williams. "We could have won both of those games and I want them to see that part of it."

Indeed, the Terps were in both games until late, but collapsed under the weight of good outside shooting by both BC and West Virginia and their own turnovers.

Besides the day off, Maryland -- which began the season beating Towson State and Southern California -- badly needs a ballhandler who can maneuver through pressure defenses.

The Terps have turned over the ball 75 times in their four games, an average of almost 19 per contest.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that no team, particularly one as seemingly limited offensively as Maryland, can afford to give the ball away that much.

"We're just not handling the ball well at all," said Williams.

It has been almost a year since Williams turned over the reins of the Maryland offense to Walt Williams.

And although the 6-foot-8 junior has been occasionally brilliant -- witness last January's 33-point, nine-assist show against North Carolina -- Williams, who has 22 turnovers this season, has run into trouble against pressing defenses that exploit his inexperience and relative lack of ballhandling skill.

So, if you're Gary Williams, how do you balance the need to keep Walt Williams as the focus of your offense, while relieving some of the pressure on him?

The answer is simple: You find someone who can handle the press.

Right, and then you invent the cure for the common cold.

For Maryland, the choice seems to be sophomore Kevin McLinton, the backup point guard, whom Gary Williams said would assume more ballhandling duties to help out Walt Williams.

"One thing we can do is to start getting Walt out of that point role so much and not make him go into the press," said Gary Williams. "Kevin has now proven that he can take on that role."

The 6-3 Springbrook High graduate has committed only nine miscues this season and is a more traditional point guard than Williams.

The downside to McLinton is that he missed all but six games last season with a stress fracture in his left leg and doesn't have much collegiate experience.

Backcourt wasn't expected to be a problem for Maryland. The frontcourt was, with the loss of Tony Massenburg and Jerrod Mustaf to the NBA. But the Terps' big men have been pounding the boards, outrebounding opponents by an average of 49-36.

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