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Zizakovic's first sub role gives Terps a tasty treat


COLLEGE PARK -- The chant went up with a little more than nine minutes left last night, and, for a moment, it seemed that Maryland coach Gary Williams immediately would give the Cole Field House crowd what it wanted.

"Lubo . . . Lubo . . . Lubo."

Williams pointed at Lubo Zizakovic, the 6-foot-8, 246-pound defensive lineman-turned-basketball player, but then sent in Mike Thibeault. Less than a minute later, Williams relented.

It was not a move of desperation, as much as the last possible substitution Williams could make in what turned out to be an 84-55 rout of undermanned and overmatched North Carolina-Greensboro.

After playing competitively with the Terrapins for 11 minutes, the first-year Division I team watched as Maryland (11-13) ran off 26 straight points in the final three minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second.

"I liked our team in terms of their preparation for the game and doing what they had to do," said Williams, whose Terps will have to prepare for another North Carolina, the one in Chapel Hill, at home Sunday. "Obviously, we have better players and should win, but it takes a lot of heart."

It also took Maryland's full-court pressure defense to turn what had been a surprisingly close game early -- the Terps led 16-15 with 8:23 left in the first half -- into the blowout that most anticipated. Leading 32-23, the Terps scored the last 15 points of the first half and the first 11 of the second.

"Once they started to press, we kind of folded," said UNC-Greensboro coach Mike Dement, whose Spartans fell to 6-20 with their 11th straight loss. "We've got a lot of deficiencies -- size, strength, ball-handling -- and they exposed all of them."

It was the kind of game Maryland hasn't been in since early in the season, the kind of game in which everybody played and, in fact, scored.

Not only did Zizakovic see his first playing time since joining the team in December, but a number of Maryland's other reserves also got some significant, and entertaining, playing time.

"It felt good to get back out there. I hadn't played in something like nine straight games," said Thibeault, a sophomore guard from Glen Burnie who finished with five points, four assists (including a neat, behind-the-back feed for a dunk by Evers Burns) and three rebounds in 14 minutes. "It's not like we took them lightly. We went out there and just played."

As the regulars helped build the lead to 78-42, it was time for the Maryland bench and a crowd of 4,421 to get into the act. And, finally, it was time for Zizakovic to see action. It came with 8:19 remaining.

After missing a shot close-in, after bricking two free throws with 2:55 remaining, after committing four quick fouls and nearly his fifth, Zizakovic went to the line again with 27 seconds left. He swished the first and the bench erupted. He missed the second.

"It felt great," said Zizakovic, who also had one rebound. "Maybe now the fans will lay off me for awhile."

But while it was just another 20-point night for Walt Williams -- his 14th straight with at least 20 -- and another strong game by Burns (16), it was different for Zizakovic, who last played competitive basketball as a high school senior five years ago.

"The main reason I did this was to stay in shape for football," said Zizakovic. "But Coach Williams looked out for me. It was a special feeling. I'll remember this for the rest of my life."

NOTES: Junior center Chris Kerwin had a scare in the first half, when he collided with Walt Williams and a knot on his forehead swelled. Kerwin left and later returned to the bench with an ice pack wrapped to his head. He was expected to have X-rays taken.

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