- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2001

This was supposed to be the week when the Maryland Terrapins built on last weekend's BB&T; Classic title and continued to gain momentum through the rest of their nonconference schedule.
That emphasis changed before the No. 3 Terps got off the bus returning from MCI Center on Monday night following their defeat of Connecticut. On the bus in the parking lot of Cole Field House, coach Gary Williams confirmed that the brother of senior forward Byron Mouton had died in Houston and one of the team's vocal and emotional leaders would need time with his family. Services for Kevin Mouton, 32, found shot in his car Dec. 2 in Houston, were held yesterday in Rayne, La., the Moutons' home town.
Although Mouton has not played with his teammates since Monday, he is expected to play in tonight's game against Detroit at Cole Field House and could start, Williams said. If Mouton does not start, junior Drew Nicholas will replace him in the lineup for the Terps (6-1) after practicing at small forward with the top unit this week.
"It's something we've never experienced, because Byron's been with us the last two years he's never gotten hurt or anything," said Nicholas, who would be making his first career start.
Mouton brings more to the team than just his experience and his 7.0 points a game. He is always quick with a smile, and his chatter keeps the locker room mood light things that have been noticeably absent this week, players said.
Since transferring from Tulane after his sophomore season, Mouton has proved to be an emotional lightning rod for both his teammates and fans at Cole and is extremely active on the court.
"That's just how Mouton is talking to the team, the energy, the spark, everything that we need," said Lonny Baxter, the MVP of the BB&T; Classic. "It's been pretty quiet since he's been gone."
Said Williams of Mouton: "We'll try to get a feel from him, how he feels. He'll certainly be playing, one way or another."
Against most unranked nonconference foes, Williams might not press to get Mouton back into action. But tonight the Terps face the kind of talented opponent that many top-25 schools are reluctant to schedule one that poses a legitimate threat to their 80-game homecourt nonconference winning streak.
The Titans have won 20-plus games in each of the last four seasons, made NCAA tournament appearances in 1998 and 1999 and reached the semifinals of the NIT last season under coach Perry Watson.
In its season opener, Detroit (4-2) played before 14,759 at Michigan State and lost 80-70, so the Titans should be relatively unfazed by hostile Cole. Detroit's starting lineup includes two juniors, Willie Green (16.3 points) and Terrell Riggs (15.8), and three seniors.
"Playing Maryland will probably be a great motivator for our team," said Watson, whose Titans were stunned 93-67 at Oakland (Mich.) on Thursday. "We will play anybody, anywhere, any time. That's not cocky. That's how you build a program, by playing the best. … We're no little sisters of the poor."
Said Nicholas: "You talk to people who don't really know much about basketball, and you mention Detroit, they say, 'It's probably just another pushover December win.' This isn't the case. They're a good basketball team."
The Terps, winners of six straight since an opening loss to Arizona, will be ready for Detroit, but they are also obviously concerned about Mouton.
"I'm sure in the back of all the players' minds there's a concern if Byron's OK, for his family," Williams said. "When something like that happens, it's different because of the shock involved. … The players, being the type of people they are, they want to help Byron to get through it the best he can."
This is the first of Maryland's five Sunday games on Fox Sports Net. The Terps play eight games on Sunday the rest of the season compared to just one Jan. 26 against Florida State on Saturday. Williams said he likes the games because they will be one of the few being played, giving his team more exposure.

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