Maryland coach Gary Williams could take a lot of positives from Saturday night's 81-58 win over Princeton at the Baltimore Arena.
The fifth-ranked Terps, after not playing for a week, rebounded from a tough road loss in Kentucky and used their full-court pressure to force the usually sure-handed Tigers into 29 turnovers. The Terps handily beat a team that shot more than 50 percent from the field against them for the first time all season. Finally, the Terps continued their success at the arena.
Yet there was one bright spot that brought even more relief to Williams -- the return of senior swingman Laron Profit's shooting touch.
Profit's game-high 21 points marked his best performance since he scored 23 against Pittsburgh in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Shootout.
And though much of the Terps' success has been attributed to newcomer Steve Francis, Profit, a senior from Dover, Del., has struggled to find his scoring touch in big games. In the Terps' three games against ranked teams (UCLA, Stanford and Kentucky), Profit scored a combined 15 points.
It seemed all Profit needed to heighten his game was another matchup at the arena, where he scored 21 against Temple last season. Saturday night, the old Profit returned, much to the pleasure of his coach.
"Prof really got out at it early, and it was good to see," Williams said. "He finally got some confidence. He wishes he could play 30 games here. He looked more comfortable than he's been in awhile. He got some good looks, and he didn't hesitate. I think he's had some hesitation lately offensively, and tonight when he was open he just let it go, and that was good to see."
Unlike previous games, Profit was involved in the offense early and often. A fadeaway jumper by Profit at the 17: 33 mark in the first half was the beginning of a 16-0 run that gave the Terps a 17-point lead and forced Princeton to play catch-up for the rest of the game. Profit scored seven in the run.
"I thought the key was being as aggressive as possible. People were telling me going in that I wasn't being aggressive, that I can't wait for everything to come to me. That's what I did tonight," Profit said. "I've got to go get it and make it happen.
"I just can't be hesitant. If I miss, I miss."
Said Francis: "Laron is capable of doing anything. He's the leader of this team. It was just a matter of time until he broke out."
The Terps will need Profit's leadership with the ACC season approaching. After North Texas on Wednesday and South Carolina State on Dec. 27, the new year presents the team's toughest task to date. The Terps have a meeting with Duke, a team that routed the Terps twice last year, on Jan. 3 at Cole Field House.
"Laron's been in every big game in the past four years," Williams said. "When he plays like that, it makes it easier for the younger guys to come off the bench. It's good that Laron did that. And it's not just his scoring; we need his leadership, too."
Williams also said he sees steady improvement in his team going into the ACC schedule.
"I think we're getting tougher, and that's what it takes here, because it's never smooth come January or February in our league," Williams said. "Any road game is loseable, and the teams get ready to play. It's a special thing in the ACC, and you're not going to catch anybody unless you give it your best shot."
Pub Date: 12/21/98