COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- The College of Charleston's gain turned into Florida International's lopsided loss.
The 12,765 fans at Cole Field House last night might not have known much about FIU, but coach Gary Williams made sure Maryland did. Here's how the pep talk went: The Terps were beaten in last year's NCAA tournament by the C of C, which had fits against Trans America Athletic Conference rival Florida International.
The propaganda helped, as the No. 24 Terps pounded the Golden Panthers, 117-70.
"We talked about that each day before this game, how Florida International almost beat Charleston last year," Williams said. "They have some new players and we were ready to play again. This isn't the easiest place to play, but we have something to do with that."
The 10th-highest point total in school history was nice, but Maryland's work at the other end was more impressive. If Maryland (3-1) wasn't forcing a turnover in the first half, Florida International was forcing a bad shot, and there were plenty on a night when the Terps contested everything.
The Golden Panthers (1-1) made just 21.2 percent of their fieldgoal attempts in the first half, which included a stretch of 12: 46 without a basket. That drought began with Maryland nursing a 13-10 lead, and ended with the Terps comfortably ahead at 47-16 heading into the last three minutes of the half.
How one-sided was this one? Seldom-used junior guard Norman Fields came on with 3: 09 left - in the first half. The Terps blew it open with a 20-1 run, still had the score doubled going into the last two minutes, and needed only 15 points from Laron Profit, nine below his average.
The Terps got a season-high 20 points and 10 rebounds from Rodney Elliott, the senior forward from Dunbar. Center Obinna Ekezie had 18 points, but the Terps also prospered on the perimeter, as they made five of 11 three-pointers, easily their best percentage through four games. When someone got open, they got the ball.
"That's good," Profit said, as he viewed a box score that had someone else leading the Terps in scoring for the first time this season. "I could tell from the opening tap that they [Florida International] were keying on me, and we got everybody into the game."
The Golden Panthers made it a game for five minutes, but then the visitors from Miami lost their way, the Terps turned up the defensive pressure and that don't-look-back, 20-1 run had Maryland ahead 33-11 with 9: 27 left in the half.
The spurt could have been worse. FIU coach Shakey Rodriguez got a technical with 11: 58 left in the half that gave the Terps a chance at a 6-0 run. They missed three of four free throws, then turned the ball over, not that it mattered the way Maryland was moving.
"Defensively, you have to be willing to make the effort to play," Williams said. "We were getting a little too aggressive early, fouling three-point shooters, but I would rather us be aggressive."
It was another romp in which Williams was able to test different combinations and bring along freshmen Mike Mardesich and Terence Morris, but the stakes will grow after the Thanksgiving break. A week from tomorrow night, the Terps open their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule at No. 13 Clemson, and three days later they face No. 2 Kansas at the MCI Arena.
Pub Date: 11/26/97