- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2001

LOS ANGELES They begin games with the best seats in the house, but they rarely stay in them long.

Maryland's reserves have taken turns in starring roles this season, a major reason the Terrapins are in the Sweet 16 and thinking about reaching the program's first Final Four.

The third-seeded Terps face crosstown rival Georgetown, the 10th seed, Thursday in a West Region semifinal at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.

"[Starters] know if they ask out, there's not a dog coming in," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who can alter his lineups to be big, small, scoring- or defensive-oriented. "There is a pretty good player coming in. We don't expect any letdown when we sub six through 10. We just say, 'It's your turn. Let's go.' "

The Terps (23-10) visited Disneyland yesterday, but Williams only has to look at his backups to see his basketball fantasy land.

Need a savvy 7-footer? Welcome Mike Mardesich. How about a clever 6-10 power forward who loves to grind? Hello Tahj Holden. An athletic playmaker? Meet Chris Wilcox. A big small forward that's quick? That's Danny Miller. A 3-point specialist? Bring in Drew Nicholas.

Miller was the latest to shine off the pine when he came in to shut down Georgia State's top scorer Shernard Long in the second round. The 6-8 junior had 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting, seven rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes.

"We needed somebody to get inside and play Long and make them tired," said starting small forward Byron Mouton, who played just 16 minutes that game. "Danny did a great job and got some rebounds."

It may seem odd that Miller and Mouton, who compete at the same position, get along so well. Mouton took Miller's starting job this season, but there is no animosity between the two. Things have pretty much been that way all season, with few gripes for playing time despite it being divided between 10 guys.

"We can put Tahj Holden or Chris Wilcox in," said Williams, who has the luxury of playing the hot player. "One of those guys is going to play well or Mike Mardesich is going to play well. If they don't, it doesn't kill us. We can put the other guy in that is playing well.

"People say when a guy comes in and plays really well, that's a good bench. That's a good sixth man. That's not a good bench. A good bench is certain guys playing better on certain days, but those guys that didn't play well play well the next time. It's like Danny Miller [against Georgia State] versus how he played against George Mason."

Miller, who has been strong overall beginning with the win at Duke on Feb. 27, had only two points and one rebound in 12 minutes as Maryland just got past George Mason in the first round.

The roles and playing time vary depending on the opposition.

The Terps have gone big inserting the explosive Wilcox at power forward, while Terence Morris shifts to small forward, and Mouton either sits or plays shooting guard. Juan Dixon and Nicholas can play with Steve Blake giving the team a three-guard look.

Maryland will go big on Thursday when it faces the huge Hoyas, led by 6-8, 260-pound Mike Sweetney and 7-footer Ruben Boumtje Boumtje. The deep bench also means the Terps can give up fouls and still have top talent on the floor. Playing Georgetown should mean extended playing time for Holden, the team's most physical player, and the pounding frame of Mardesich.

"Mike, obviously, will play a bigger role against a bigger team than he did in the first two rounds against smaller teams," said Williams.

It's all varying situational roles for a bench that averages 26.0 points and 12.9 rebounds a contest. Nicholas is the reserve's leading scorer at 6.7 points. Miller, Holden, Mardesich and Wilcox have all picked their spots to make important contributions.

The Terps have one of college basketball's richest reserves of talent which is one reason the players and many around them feel the Final Four is within reach. Last season the thin Terps were devastated when Danny Miller hurt his ankle late in the season. This year, they have a bit of luxury.

"Each team takes shape as you go through the season," said Williams, who used only three players off the bench last season. "We've developed where everybody is comfortable with the other nine guys. We'll play 10 and will continue to play 10. Depending on who plays well, some of those guys will get more minutes."

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