COLLEGE PARK -- Move over, Keith Gatlin. And don't say you hadn't been warned.
More than 12 years have passed since Gatlin set the Maryland single-game assist record with 13 against Virginia. He was reminded of this during the summer by Terrapins sophomore point guard Terrell Stokes, who told him, "I'm going to try to get your record sometime this season."
He succeeded yesterday against Towson State, notching his 14th with about a minute left when he fired an outlet pass to Sarunas Jasikevicius for a fast-break layup.
Stokes also set career highs in rebounds and steals, and five Maryland players scored in double figures in a 93-76 victory over Towson State before 10,430 at Cole Field House.
Senior forward Keith Booth led all scorers with 22 points to go with eight rebounds and three steals. Jasikevicius added 17 points, sophomore center Obinna Ekezie had 15 points and seven rebounds, and junior forward Rodney Elliott had 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Junior forward Ralph Biggs led Towson State (2-2) with 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 37 minutes. Junior center Ryan Lexer had 19 points and 10 rebounds, even though he's battling the flu, along with teammates Michael Keyes and Florian Schneider. Lexer also found out three days ago that his father is hospitalized after suffering a stroke back home in Council Rock, Pa.
"They say he should make a good recovery," Lexer said. "You just have to put it aside for two hours and play."
For most of those two hours, Stokes was more than the Tigers could handle. Along with the assists, he also had 10 points, six rebounds and six steals, and was instrumental in Maryland being able to survive a furious Towson State rally in the second half.
"The assist record was nice, but I thought his defense there stopped their run," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team improved to 2-0 and won its 48th straight nonconference game at home. "He got his hands in there and it really changed the situation around for us."
As for the record, Stokes said, "It's a great accomplishment. Keith Gatlin was a great guard. He had Len Bias to make it real easy for him. Me, I have to work a little harder to get my assists."
The action on both benches was more heated than anything that took place on the floor in the first half.
The game wasn't more than a minute old when both coaches were called to the scorers' table by referee Rick Hartzell and warned that they were close to receiving technical fouls. And it happened with 2: 25 left in the first half, after Williams screamed at Terry Truax, his teammate at Maryland in the mid-1960s, to "shut up" after the Towson State coach had said something to Jasikevicius.
"It was just old friends saying hello to each other," Williams said of the exchange with Truax.
Earlier, Truax had yelled at an official not to let Williams officiate the game. At one point, he wandered near the Maryland bench, which drew the ire of Williams.
"We always used to yell at each other at practices, so it kind of carried over," said Truax, whose teams account for 10 games of Towson State's 0-12 record against Maryland. "I notice sometimes when we play, there's a lot of urging going on in front of the Maryland bench, and I think that's just Gary's way to rouse his team. But I do think it influences the officials, whether subconsciously or not. I'm not going to sit by and say, 'Well, this is the ACC and we're supposed to put up the white flag.' And Gary wouldn't expect that either. So, I was doing a little more urging than normal."
"We were trying not to get caught up in that," said Booth, who had three straight dunks in the first four minutes as part of a 13-0 run.
Once the focus returned to the game, Towson State got Maryland's attention. The Tigers became more aggressive inside and reduced a 23-point halftime deficit to 12 on five occasions, the last with 11: 15 remaining. But each time, the Terps did something to pad their lead.
Booth made a jumper. Stokes drove the lane and scored. Ekezie dunked. Booth hit again from the outside. Stokes passed to Ekezie for another jam.
Towson State issued five challenges, and Maryland met each one.
"We wanted to come out ready to play in the first half, and we did a great job of that," Booth said. "Give Towson State a lot of credit. In the second half, they came out and really tried to take it to us. But Terrell Stokes did a great job as far as picking it up for us on defense and offense. He really settled us down."
The Terps were bound to cool off in the second half. They made 14 of their first 19 attempts from the field and ended the first half shooting 69 percent, but were 13-for-36 (36 percent) in the second.
"What we have to do is understand it's a 40-minute situation," Williams said. "Obviously, it didn't hurt us today, but in the future, if we can't play hard for 40 minutes, it could catch us."
Pub Date: 12/01/96