COLLEGE PARK -- They serve, those who sit and wait, and lately Evers Burns and Matthew Downing, Maryland's first two players off the bench, have been serving quite nicely, thank you.
Both racked up double figures in points in Maryland's thrilling 96-93 win over Georgia Tech. Burns made one of two late free throws to clinch the victory, and Downing caught Kenny Anderson's errant three-pointer and dribbled out the clock.
Burns, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, and Downing, a 5-10 junior guard, are giving Maryland coach Gary Williams reason to believe in their progress.
"Without Walt [Williams], we've lost some firepower," said Williams. "We've had to do some things different, but you never know that until you go through it.
"Evers and Cougar [Downing's nickname] have helped us get through it."
Downing, a junior college transfer from Atchison, Kan. has had an up-and-down transition year to big-time play, and his confidence has wavered from time to time.
"I've been playing in streaks," said Downing, who is averaging 3.2 points and 11.1 minutes. "There are certain times when I feel confident and I do really well.
"Other times, I get a little down and I don't play as well. Hopefully, I can play out of those situations."
Complicating matters is Downing's left shoulder, which has popped out of its socket on occasion, most recently during the Clemson game last week.
"Certain times I'll get hit on it and nothing happens. Other times, I'll just be touched and it will pop out," said Downing, who had 10 points Wednesday.
Downing said yesterday that an X-ray revealed a slight gap between the shoulder and the blade. There's little he can do about it other than play through it, he said.
Williams said Downing has adjusted well to his role as back-up point guard to Kevin McLinton, especially considering he had been a shooter all his pre-Maryland career.
"Cougar was an off-guard and he's really learning to play the point," said Williams. "He's done a good job and he's playing with more and more confidence."
Burns, a Woodlawn High graduate, has become the team's emotional leader, often flailing his arms on the bench to get the Maryland crowd into the game.
He frequently plays with a full head of steam, and takes off-balance shots that give the appearance he is out of control.
"He [Williams] praises it because with my emotion, I get the team going, I get the crowd up," said Burns, who had 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds Wednesday.
"I get caught up in the game, but as I get older, I'll take less of those shots. I only had one [against Georgia Tech]," said Burns, laughing.
"Evers gets into position really nicely for his shots," said Williams. "It's finishing the play that we're trying to get him to work on."
Burns, averaging 8.1 points and 3.9 rebounds, was expected to start, but he reported to camp a little heavy and JUCO transfer Garfield Smith stepped ahead of him.
But Burns has worked his weight down from 247 to 239 pounds and is accepting his role as a reserve.
"I was hoping to start, but I'm happy with my role, since I'm getting any playing time at all. Not a lot of sophomores get to play as much I do."