What aspect of Maryland's conquest of North Carolina on Wednesday night most encouraged the Terps? The realization that they don't need a big point total from Steve Francis to put away a quality opponent in a pressure-packed game.
Francis is regarded as having the largest impact of any newcomer in college basketball this season, but the Tar Heels picked up on a tactic that Duke used when it quelled Maryland.
The Blue Devils slowed the junior-college transfer by putting a bigger defender on him. Chris Carrawell, 6 feet 6, hounded the 6-3 Terp into 0-for-7 shooting in the second half of Duke's 18-point win at Cole Field House on Jan. 3.
North Carolina marked Francis with 6-8 freshman Jeff Capel, and Francis' season-low eight points marked only the second time he didn't reach double figures. The first came with an asterisk -- he played 21 minutes against hapless American University of Puerto Rico.
Not many teams have wings who combine quickness and size like Carrawell and Capel, but the Terps will have to contend with that strategy again.
Francis went 3-for-10 from the field, but his six rebounds and three steals led the Terps, who showed maturity and resourcefulness in their first win on a ranked opponent's court in nearly two years. This time, other players stepped up when Francis was shut down.
North Carolina has taken more than twice as many free throws as its opponents this season, and that trend continued for one half Wednesday, before Maryland turned the tables and attacked the basket.
The Terps hit five three-pointers in the first half, decided that wasn't the way to go, then pounded the ball inside to senior center Obinna Ekezie.
It was a pivotal win for Maryland, which should move to 17-2 for only the second time in its history Tuesday against Georgia Tech. The Terps have never been 18-2, but they can reach that plateau Jan. 24 at Clemson. Maryland has lost its last two games there, but Wednesday's win could bring residual benefits.
"Beating a ranked team on the road," point guard Terrell Stokes said, "shows we can adjust to anything."
Freezing in Florida
When visitors to Florida State wear a T-shirt under their uniform jersey, it's not a tribute to John Thompson.
Quiet, dark Leon County Civic Center has been one of the friendliest road settings for conference teams, but renovations there have created havoc. The contractor was slow to correct the draft caused by construction, and the temperature read 55 degrees when North Carolina overcame a frigid shooting start to win there last week.
"No one was prepared for the cold front that came through here," Seminoles coach Steve Robinson said. "When you have a hole in the building because of construction, you expect the temperature to be a little cold. I'll apologize to anyone for an environment that's not conducive to playing basketball."
The distraction doesn't entirely explain the Seminoles' surprise third-place start. They won their first two road games for the first time since they entered the conference in 1991, albeit at Virginia and Georgia Tech. Florida State figures to begin its descent in the standings tomorrow, when it plays at Duke.
Elton Brand is the conference's Player of the Week for the third straight time, and that's the first instance in ACC history that's happened.
Brand has been the conference's steadiest post man. The most consistent forward has been Terence Morris, the Terps' publicity-shy sophomore.
Morris kept Maryland afloat in the first half at North Carolina, when foul trouble nearly sunk the Terps. An 8-for-12 shooting night raised his field-goal percentage to .621. The school record for a season is .647, by Buck Williams in 1980-81.
Pub Date: 1/15/99