Lewis, McLinton lighten Terps' load


COLLEGE PARK -- There were two stars in Maryland's 93-79 win over Cal-Irvine last night, and their names weren't Walt Williams and Matt Roe.

Oh sure, Williams had 21 points and six assists, and Roe had 11 points, including four free throws and an alley-oop toss for Williams down the stretch.

But the night belonged to the unheralded names in Terpland, to men like Cedric Lewis and Kevin McLinton, who play the lunchpail role to the high profile presentations of Williams and Roe.

Lewis came oh-so-close to his first career triple-double, scoring 21 points, pulling down 14 rebounds and blocking eight shots, all career-highs.

And McLinton only knifed through the lane with 1:44 left and Maryland leading by just four to score the layup and a foul shot that cinched the win, which moved Maryland to 3-3 on the season.

The significance of having someone other than Williams or Roe play key roles, particularly on offense, was not lost on Maryland coach Gary Williams.

"We're rushing some people, I know, but we've got to score when Matt and Walt don't," said Williams. "That's where Cedric tonight helped us."

For Lewis, a career 46 percent foul shooter, the sweetest part of the evening was that he notched nine of 10 free throws, hitting his last eight.

"I was really relaxed out there," said Lewis. "I just came out and relaxed and luckily they fell for me. Tonight, the offensive game was there."

That Lewis, a 6-foot-9 senior, is a premier defensive force is a given. He is averaging 4.3 blocks and 10.5 rebounds per game, placing him among the nation's leaders.

But Lewis' offensive skills have progressed significantly, as he has almost quadrupled his career scoring average from three points to 11.3 this year.

"I don't worry a lot about the offense part," said Lewis. "My role is to get rebounds and help on defense. Anything else is nice."

"It was great to see him on the free throw line going 9-for-10," said Williams. "What he did was make up for some guys who didn't shoot particularly good free throws. That is what you need to really pick you up."

McLinton, who played a gritty defensive game in addition to his nine points, almost had to wait for crowd reaction to tell him if his key layup had gone in.

But, from over his shoulder, McLinton watched the ball drop and the smile on his face told the entire story.

"I saw it go in," said McLinton. "I was just trying to be aggressive in that situation. I'm glad it worked out."

And how. McLinton's shot, coming with the 45-second clock winding down, gave the Terrapins (3-3) a seven-point lead at 84-77, placing what had been a surprisingly close game out of reach.

"That was a big play," said Gary Williams. "He just made an aggressive move. They were on Walt really tight. What I like is that he took it right at them and made something happen."

What McLinton did, besides give Maryland a cushion, was drive Cal-Irvine's Jeff Herdman, who had burned the Terps for 18 points (including four three-pointers), out of the game with his fifth foul.

McLinton, in his second start, has given the Terps a fiery backcourt presence to go along with Roe and Williams' reserved demeanor.

"He helps Walt because he takes some ballhandling pressure off Walt," said Williams. "It's hard to handle the ball for 40 minutes. Besides, Kevin's vocal and that really helps too."

"I'm just a rah-rah guy," said McLinton. "Anytime I see somebody down, I'm going to try to pick him up. That's what a leader does. That's what Coach Williams likes. That's why he has confidence in me."

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