COLLEGE PARK - - Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams certainly knows something about playing with a small lineup. His Terps will need to do just that against Fairfield tonight because their frontcourt depth has suddenly thinned.

"I think having coached at American University [from 1978 to 1982], we were always able to have very good guards there, and it was tough to get a good big man. So we know how to play that way," Williams said Monday.

Williams frequently went with three guards on the floor last season. The coach, in his 21st year with Maryland, was perpetually trying to twist the lineup to his team's advantage by trapping, pressing and encouraging his players to use their quickness offensively.

Tonight, Williams said, the No. 25 Terps (1-0) might use four guards at times against the Stags (2-0), who have out-rebounded their opponents by eight per game in wins over Fordham and Central Connecticut State. Guard Sean Mosley (St. Frances), who enjoys inside contact, is likely to be used frequently in the paint.

Maryland's team size has been depleted by the ankle injury suffered by Jin Soo Choi in the season-opening win over Charleston Southern. Williams isn't ruling the forward out of tonight's game - "We'll see," the coach said - but much of the talk by players at Monday's media interview session focused on the possibility of using four guards at once.

Center Steve Goins (knee) continues to be unavailable, and Williams was not offering news on the status of forward Dino Gregory (team rules violation), who also missed the season opener.

Said the coach: "You might see some interesting four men out there against Fairfield."

Maryland's guards are accustomed to having to play "big."

"We can put four guards in there, no problem, that can play," Williams said. "That might be a way to play [tonight], and it may be a way to play in periods of games. It might not just be because of [tonight's] situation. It might be that that's a pretty good way for us to play this year. I know Villanova's gotten away with it at times quite a bit the last couple of years, and they've been good."

Maryland was sometimes hurt on the boards last season with its smaller lineups. The team played more zone defense than Williams prefers to try to minimize the height gap with the largest teams.

But the Terps often got away with playing multiple guards because so many of them can play more than one position. "If we go into a huddle, we determine who is the point guard and who is the two guard," guard Adrian Bowie said. "If it so happens somebody gets the rebound that can play the point guard, they bring it up themselves."

There is also flexibility in the frontcourt, where players rotate among the small forward, power forward and center - the "three," "four" and "five."

Said Williams: "James [Padgett] can play the four and five, and obviously Landon [Milbourne] has played four for us for a year and a half now. But you know it gets thin pretty quick."

It helps that Maryland's guards are relatively big. Greivis Vasquez is 6-6, Cliff Tucker is 6-4 1/2 , Mosley is about 6-3 1/2 and Eric Hayes is 6-4.

Mosley said he doesn't mind being guarded by a forward. He might have to work extra hard on defense, but he can use his quickness when he has the ball.

"I think it's to my advantage running four guards and one big because it's an advantage to me taking my man off the dribble if I'm having a big guy playing me," Mosley said.

Note:: Ashton Pankey, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound senior power forward from St. Anthony High in Jersey City, N.J., committed to Maryland on Monday, picking the Terps over Drexel, Hofstra, Houston and Rice. "I always wanted to play at the highest level of basketball, and one thing I dream about is one day being a pro," Pankey said. "I work hard and do what I need to do, and I think Maryland is going to give me the best chance to [realize that dream]." Pankey's Amateur Athletic Union coach, Jeff Rivera of the New York-based New Heights program, said Pankey is a standout rebounder with good athleticism. "His mother didn't want him to just go to school for basketball," Rivera said. "She wanted him to go to a good school where he could get a good education. When Maryland was getting involved, I knew that would satisfy for him what he wanted in a school. He wants to compete at the highest level and challenge himself playing in the ACC, so I thought it was a great fit."

Baltimore Sun reporter Matt Bracken contributed to this article.


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