- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 30, 2002

Maryland coach Gary Williams isn't thinking about playing reserves or another runaway victory tonight. Now the competition gets real for the Terrapins.

Duquesne (1-2) should challenge the No.11 Terps at Comcast Center after the Maryland's 97-49 romp over The Citadel on Wednesday. Maryland then plays No.19 Indiana, Notre Dame and possibly No.3 Texas over the next eight days, plus No.7 Florida on Dec.14.

"When you've been through a Final Four and win a national championship, it's tough to get through the preseason and it's hard to get excited about playing until you play a team that can challenge you," Williams said yesterday. "We're going to be challenged."

Maryland's starters probably will get more time after being rested midway through the second half against The Citadel. After all, Duquesne played evenly for nearly the first half in its 82-67 loss to No.5 Pittsburgh last Saturday. The Terps have looked crisp against two smaller opponents, with their pressure defense generating 45 points against the Bulldogs, but Williams still sees Maryland needing to jell.

"We haven't proven ourselves yet," Williams said. "We're trying to mold a team and each game you hope to get better, but we're not going into this game thinking what we're going to accomplish. Our starters will play 40 minutes if they have to."

Duquesne has a big frontcourt led by forward Simplice Njoya (6-foot-10) and center Ron Dokes (6-9) that will press Terps forward Tahj Holden (6-10), who was scoreless in 22 minutes against The Citadel. Holden has hit only one of nine from the field in two games.

"He just needs to be motivated. Hopefully, this game will motivate him," Williams said. "The first two teams we played didn't have size, but these people do. I give him the benefit of the doubt that he'll be ready to play when we need him, because he's come through before. I fully expect Tahj will step it up against teams where we'll need him more."

Meanwhile, guard Drew Nicholas comes off a career-high 28 points despite leaving with nearly nine minutes remaining against The Citadel. Nicholas figures to soften Duquesne from the outside after hitting five of seven 3-pointers against the Bulldogs.

"I got a couple of easy transition buckets, and that always helps me personally to get into the flow of the game," Nicholas said, "and then once I do step to the 3-point line, shots are falling and everything's rolling."

Certainly, the defense that allowed the fewest points (98) in its first two games since 1966 already seems in midseason form. Maryland stayed in a half-court scheme and still harassed The Citadel with a late 19-5 run fueled by turnovers.

"It's always easier when you can create offense from your defense, [especially] on nights when you don't have to have your offense flowing the right way," Nicholas said.

Williams was encouraged over the four freshmen and junior college transfer forward Jamar Smith playing together in the second half. The group outscored The Citadel 23-9 over the last seven minutes. Nicholas cheered from the bench as the reserves continue to impress.

"I think when they first got in there [they were] a little tight still," Nicholas said. "Then they just started to play basketball. They said, 'Hey, we don't have anything to lose right now let's just go out and play basketball.' It's another step in their progression."

Said freshman forward Nik Caner-Medley: "Anytime you have people coming off the bench, you can't let the level of play drop. You have to be able to let the starters get their rest and be able to hold the intensity up."


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