COLLEGE PARK -- Byron Mouton did more than emulate the opposition's top perimeter player at Maryland's basketball practice yesterday. He helped provide the scouting report itself.
Mouton, a 6-foot-6 wing, is sitting out this season as a transfer, per NCAA rules. Last season he was the leading scorer for Tulane, which happens to be the Terps' opponent tonight at 8 at Cole Field House, in the second round of the Preseason NIT.
The winner advances to the final four of the 16-team tournament at New York's Madison Square Garden next Wednesday and Friday. The Terps have to beat a team from the Big Easy in order to enjoy a Thanksgiving taste of the Big Apple, a destination that is rated a long shot on the Green Wave's schedule.
Preseason NIT organizers -- the same guys who thought that Ohio State would be going to New York City -- planned on a Kentucky-Maryland semifinal, and Tulane went ahead and scheduled a home game against Nicholls State next Wednesday.
Mouton was conspicuous by his absence in the Maryland locker room after Wednesday's 71-61 season-opening victory over San Francisco, and coach Gary Williams declined to discuss whatever inside information the junior-to-be was able to provide. Besides, Tulane boss Perry Clark is desperate to change his team's look after two down seasons.
Clark, a DeMatha High product who spent six seasons as a Georgia Tech assistant before moving to New Orleans in 1988, took Tulane to three NCAA tournaments from 1992 to '95. Mouton was part of a highly regarded recruiting class two years ago, but the Green Wave went 7-22 during his freshman year, and 12-15 last season.
Mouton averaged 11.4 points last year, when Tulane got a reputation for being soft.
Six other veterans stayed on, however, and a team picked to finish last in its division in Conference USA went inside to beat Fordham, 80-69, in its Preseason NIT opener. Senior power forward Sterling Davis came off the bench to score 18 points on 11 of 12 shooting from the free-throw line, as Tulane attempted 47 foul shots.
"Their guys who scored got to the line, and that means they got the ball inside," Williams said. "Without looking at a tape of their game, that's a concern."
Inside presence was already a worry for Williams after San Francisco out-rebounded Maryland, 26-12, in the second half.
"Our rebounding in the second half was nonexistent," Williams said. "Out-rebounded by 14, that's ridiculous."
San Francisco might be as big as anyone the Terps will face outside of Atlantic Coast Conference-favorite North Carolina, and that was the only serious critique Williams had of the Terps' opener, which extended the nation's longest non-conference home win streak to 65.
He liked how four new starters used an old Maryland formula and defensive energy to get the offense going. Pressure could be another key tonight against Waitari Marsh, a sophomore point guard who had more turnovers than assists last season.
Williams also admired sophomore guard Juan Dixon's all-around play, and was pleased with the way freshman Steve Blake settled down after a shaky start at the point. Blake suffered a foot injury when Terence Morris came down on him with less than six minutes to go, but Williams expected him to be ready tonight.
NOTES: Morris, the preseason All-American, started just as slowly as Blake, but he made all four of his field-goal attempts in the second half . The San Francisco game was not a sellout, and tickets remain for tonight's game. To check availability, call 1-800-464-8377. It is the first meeting between Maryland and Tulane . Utah at Kentucky is the other game in the Terps' half of the draw, and Maryland already has a much-awaited showdown against the Wildcats on Dec. 11 at Cole Field House . Two experimental rules are being used in the tournament. The fouled team can take the ball instead of the two shots after the opponent's 10th foul, and only six men are allowed on the lane during free throws, as opposed to the normal eight . Maryland is looking for its eighth straight regular-season win.
What: Preseason NIT, second round
Site: Cole Field House, College Park
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)