COLLEGE PARK -- It was a number that jumped off the pages, and it was almost absurd that Maryland's basketball team would be favored by 43 points. But against winless North Texas State, the fifth-ranked Terrapins had that spread covered last night.
Yes, at halftime. That's when Maryland had a 44-point lead on the way to a 132-57 thrashing of North Texas at Cole Field House. The 75-point margin of victory was the largest in school history and the 132 points were the second-most ever for the Terrapins, who extended the nation's longest nonconference home winning streak to 63 games.
In a young season in which they have crushed more than a few opponents, this was the Terps' most one-sided game. For the many fans who failed to show up due to yesterday's snowstorm (a sellout of 14,500 was announced, but many stayed away), all that was missed was what amounted to an open scrimmage.
Lonny Baxter was perfect in the blowout, hitting all 10 of his field goals and all eight of his free throws on the way to a career-high 28 points. The 6-foot-8 freshman forward played only 18 minutes, but scored the most points of any Terp this season. His effort from the field broke the Maryland record of 8-for-8 shared by six players.
Coach Gary Williams, the first of the six to achieve the feat (for the 1966-67 Terps), wasn't holding a grudge.
"Lonny Baxter was sensational," Williams said. "Lonny keeps working hard. He's getting more comfortable in what we're trying to do."
How much of a mismatch was it for the Terrapins (12-1) and the Mean Green (0-9)? By halftime:
Steve Francis was toying with a triple double (10 points, six assists, six steals). He finished with 17 points, eight assists, five rebounds and six steals in 23 minutes.
Baxter had 15 points (on a perfect 5-for-5 from the field).
And Williams used 11 players in the first half, with little-used reserves Brian Watkins and Norman Fields getting to strip off their sweats for rare first-half play.
"I think it was a good game for us because you don't want to schedule all top five teams before you go into the ACC schedule," said Francis. "This is a way to get our stuff tuned up before the conference season."
For North Texas, a team that has 13 newcomers, it was a game for just the first five minutes. That's when a three-pointer by senior guard Joe Ervin had the Mean Green within 11-9.
From there the Terps opened up the game with a 39-10 run, taking a 50-19 lead on a layup by Laron Profit (24 points) with 5: 20 left. By halftime the Maryland lead was 67-23, with some of the crowd already heading for the exits.
"Of the basketball teams that I've watched, in my opinion, either Maryland or Duke is the best team in the nation," said North Texas coach Vic Trilli. "Gary's got a great program here and obviously a great basketball team."
After the big win the Terrapins get a brief break, with a rare day off today followed by a practice late on Christmas Day. Maryland figures to get another easy win on Sunday against South Carolina State, before the going gets really tough in the Jan. 3 ACC matchup against second-ranked Duke.
"It was a good game for us to have, right before the Christmas break," Baxter said. "Sometimes going into a holiday you're not focused. But we played focused and showed how good we really are."
Next for Terps
Opponent: South Carolina State
When: Sunday, 1: 30 p.m.
Site: Cole Field House, College Park
Pub Date: 12/24/98