COLLEGE PARK — North Carolina State basketball player Jeremy Hyatt was misidentified in a photograph in yesterday's editions.
The Sun regrets the error.
COLLEGE PARK -- Gary Williams had a message for his Maryland Terrapins at halftime of last night's Atlantic Coast Conference game against North Carolina State. The message was simple and direct: Get the ball inside.
That's exactly what the seventh-ranked Terrapins did in the second half, getting the ball to Keith Booth. The senior forward responded with 16 of his game-high 21 points as well as nine rebounds in leading Maryland to a 66-55 victory over the Wolfpack.
The victory helped Maryland (18-4, 7-3) break its first two-game losing streak of the season. Sophomore Laron Profit broke out of a recent funk, scoring 11 of his 20 points in the first half. Senior forward Danny Strong led N.C. State (9-10, 1-9) with 19 points.
"The ideal offense is to go inside every time," said Williams. "Basically if we go inside-out, we're a good basketball team. But it's a hard thing to do for 40 minutes."
The Terrapins couldn't. They led 22-11 midway through the first half, then saw their lead cut to six, 29-23, after scoring on only three of their last 14 possessions. They set the tone for the second half by going to Booth on the first three possessions, and eventually built the lead to 12, 37-25, on a drive by Sarunas Jasikevicius.
But the Wolfpack, as has been its habit under first-year coach Herb Sendek, hung around for a while. Behind the three-point shooting of Strong, N.C. State managed to cut its deficit to four, ++ 41-37, with 11: 30 remaining. Maryland answered with a three by Profit. With the lead 46-41, steals and baskets by Profit and Booth helped put the game away.
"As soon as we would get into a flow on offense, they always had something to throw back at us," said Strong, whose three-pointer here last year sent a game -- eventually won by the Terrapins -- into overtime.
The final push came after freshman forward Damon Thornton (10 points, career-high 13 rebounds) cut Maryland's lead to 53-45 with a little more than six minutes left. The sellout crowd at Cole Field Field was getting a tad nervous. Williams, who seemed on edge most of the night, kept watching his team taking shots from the outside.
Maryland went back inside -- and over the top against N.C. State's two-three zone. First it was Obinna Ekezie making a pair of free throws after going strong to the basket. Then, after freshman point guard Justin Gainey hit the first of two free throws for the Wolfpack, it was an alley-oop off a fast break from Terrell Stokes to Profit.
After a pair of free throws by Strong, Ekezie (11 points, six rebounds) was fouled again. He made one of two and Booth put in the follow of the miss after a couple of Wolfpack players collided on the rebound and lost the ball. After N.C. State's Jeremy Hyatt hit the last of his team's eight three-pointers (on 16 attempts), the Terrapins went to Booth inside again.
"They do a lot of things to keep you from going inside," Williams said of the Wolfpack zone, a defense N.C. State hadn't used as much this season as it did last night. "But if we made some jump shots, we could draw them out. We had good looks, but we have to make them. That's our next step."
Though the Terrapins were able to get the ball inside to Booth and Ekezie, they continued to struggle from the perimeter. They shot two of 13 from three-point range and despite shooting 24 of 49 from the field, missed a bunch of mid-range jumpers as well. Stokes and Jasikevicius were a combined 3-for-12 and missed all eight of the three-pointers they attempted.
With its victory last night, and Duke's 73-68 upset of second-ranked Wake Forest in Winston Salem, N.C., Maryland is tied with the eighth-ranked Blue Devils for second place in the ACC. Clemson, which has lost three of its past four league games, is a half-game behind at 6-3.
The Terrapins play the Tigers on Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum.
But Williams and his players weren't thinking about that game yet.
They were still trying to enjoy the end of a rare, if short-lived, losing streak.
"After two losses, we had to assert ourselves again," said Williams. "This game was as big as any we've played this year. You don't like to lose three in a row."
Said Jasikevicius, "When you're in that of kind of rut, it doesn't matter who you beat. Whether it comes against another ACC team or the lowest ranked team in Division I, you have to get them when you can."
And how you can, which for Maryland means getting the ball inside.
' Conference Overall
School .. .. .. W-L .. .. W-L
Wake Forest ... 8-2 .. .. 18-2
Maryland ... .. 7-3 .. .. 18-4
Duke . .. .. .. 7-3 .. .. 18-5
Clemson . .. .. 6-3 .. .. 18-4
Virginia ... .. 5-4 .. .. 15-6
N. Carolina ... 3-5 .. .. 13-6
Florida State . 3-6 .. .. 12-6
Georgia Tech .. 2-7 .. .. 8-11
N.C. State .. . 1-9 .. .. 9-10
Maryland 66, N.C. State 55
Duke 73, Wake Forest 68
Maryland's Keith Booth is one of 16 candidates announced yesterday for the RCA Player of the Year Award as selected by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (five finalists will be named in late February, and the winner announced March 29 at the Final Four):
Player .. .. .. .. .. .. School
Chauncey Billups . .. .. Colorado
Keith Booth ... .. .. .. Maryland
Tim Duncan .. .... .. .. Wake Forest
Danny Fortson .. .... .. Cincinnati
Adonal Foyle .. .. .. .. Colgate
Reggie Freeman .. .. .. Texas
Bobby Jackson . .. .. .. Minnesota
Antawn Jamison ... .. .. North Carolina
Brevin Knight . .. .. .. Stanford
Raef LaFrentz . .. .. .. Kansas
Ron Mercer . .. .. .. .. Kentucky
Shea Seals . .. .. .. .. Tulsa
Keith Van Horn ... .. .. Utah
Jacque Vaughn . .. .. .. Kansas
Bonzi Wells . . .. .. .. Ball State
Andre Woolridge .. .. .. Iowa
Pub Date: 2/06/97