COLLEGE PARK -- Assertive.
That's the kind of basketball team Gary Williams wants to take to North Carolina, and that's the demeanor Maryland had in a 94-48 destruction of North Carolina State yesterday before another sellout of 14,500 at Cole Field House.
The No. 5 Terps (15-2, 3-1) will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., on Wednesday in sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Tar Heels will have had a full week of preparation. Maryland played its second game in four days, but the starters came out so strong and nasty yesterday, they weren't required to work the full 40 minutes.
"We just hit it right, caught N.C. State when it wasn't mentally sharp," Williams said, but the condition of the Wolfpack didn't entirely explain a blowout of historic proportions.
It was Maryland's most lopsided ACC win ever, and matched N.C. State's worst loss in the conference, but the 46-point margin was more than the result of an ankle injury that sidelined coach Herb Sendek's top scorer, freshman guard Adam Harrington.
"When you have 31 turnovers, that's going to lead to a lot of baskets you can't defend," Sendek said. "It's hard to quantify what that does to all the other aspects of the game."
Williams, who improved to 10-0 at Cole against the Wolfpack, preaches the carry-over between a team's play at the offensive and defensive ends, and Maryland created points with pressure, in transition and in the half-court while posting runs of 12-0, 14-1, 10-2 and 16-0.
The tentative team that struggled to beat Virginia stayed in Charlottesville, and was replaced by the group that likes to have fun and came in with the nation's second-largest average margin of victory.
Remember the team that didn't hit a three-pointer against Virginia? Senior wing Laron Profit, who had 17 points, made three beyond the line in the first seven minutes, when he matched N.C. State's point total. He had two during the 12-0 spurt that rapidly obliterated Maryland's only deficit, 2-0.
Steve Francis, who criticized his shot selection in Charlottesville, had 22 and said "it was luck." Actually, he was a perfect 9-for-9 from the field, including two threes of his own.
Seven of point guard Terrell Stokes' nine assists came in the first half, and the game was crystallized during a sequence 3: 31 before the break, when the Terps' three perimeter starters jumped Justin Gainey, the N.C. State point guard who was in over his head.
The sophomore didn't commit one of his five turnovers, but he fought just to have his timeout signal be seen. It didn't do the Wolfpack any good, as it was in the midst of going 10 minutes without a field goal. The drought spanned halftime, so N.C. State went more like 45 minutes on Sendek's watch without a field goal.
The Wolfpack didn't have a single player score in double figures, and shot a season-low 31.4 percent from the field. Maryland, meanwhile, went 60.3, its best mark in 10 games. Most telling statistic of the first half: two free throws for the Terps. N.C. State was always a step late, as Maryland made its first five shots, four in its half-court offense.
"We've been working on it," said center Obinna Ekezie, who had 12 points. "For the last week and a half, Coach [Williams] has emphasized that. The offense looked great in practice Friday. When we move the ball, we get the defense off-balance, and that's what happened today."
The Terps had poor second halves against Duke and Virginia last week, and there was no let-up this time, as they expanded a 48-24 bulge at the break to 58-26 with 15: 25 left. The 16-0 run made it 76-31 with 7: 23 left, and Maryland would have doubled the score if not for a free throw with five seconds left.
"Everyone spoke about it at the half," Profit said, "about starting the second half like it was the start of the game."
Now it's off to North Carolina, where the Tar Heels will face a team looking for its first significant success on an opponent's floor.
"We have to play at this level on the road now," Williams said.
NOTES: Center Mike Mardesich and forward Danny Miller, who struggled last week, combined for 13 points. N.C. State mustered consecutive baskets once in the first 26 minutes. The Wolfpack out-rebounded the Terps, 36-29. Maryland's field-goal percentage defense dipped to 36.2 percent. Pub Date: 1/11/99