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Carving up the turkey

November 25, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

Carving up the turkey

Maryland gets to meat of schedule in Puerto Rico

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland basketball team will spend Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico with one major goal in mind.

To make sure they don't sit at the kiddie table anymore.

The Terrapins try to elbow their way onto the table of honor among college basketball's elite when they play in the three-day Puerto Rico Shootout, beginning today at 1:30 p.m. against American University-Puerto Rico.

--cont. from sports page--

"We have a good team here," said Maryland guard Steve Francis. "We have to prove that we deserve all the national publicity."

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Maryland has always been considered one of college basketball's better teams, but have always been an afterthought in the Atlantic Coast Conference behind Duke and North Carolina. But this season, the Terps have assembled what is considered one of the best teams in the country, as their No. 5 ranking will attest.

Proving time comes in the second round of the tournament when the projected final four will include No. 10 UCLA, which is in Maryland's bracket, along with No. 4 Kentucky and No. 13 Xavier. If Maryland gets past American, it could play UCLA and defending national champion Kentucky on consecutive nights in order to win the championship.

"We aren't nervous about facing the big boys," Francis said. "We are one of the big boys. I think we're ready."

This tournament will Maryland's first chance to prove it. The Terps are 4-0 this season after playing four home games which served as nothing more than tuneups. All have been against lower scale NCAA Division I opponents and each have been at least 40 point wins with the opponents shooting under 40 percent.

''I think we learned that we're a pretty good basketball team. I think we also learned that we have to work on some things,'' coach Gary Williams said after Monday's 81-47 victory over Duquesne. ''I wasn't pleased with our half court offense. Our foul shooting hasn't been good yet and we have to do a better job of rebounding. Right now we're playing well in spurts. We have to get more consistent.''

The Terps have shown all their ability, highlighting one aspect of their talent in each game. They can run, shoot and pass the ball while showing the ability to power the ball inside around the basket.

They just haven't blended each aspect into one game. That's where American can come in before Maryland faces the heavyweights.

"These are definitely some big-time games we are facing," Francis said. "We still have to keep things in perspective."

One reminder is American's ability to pull the major upset. It defeated Arkansas in last year's tournament. It also has the home crowd and the hot, unseasonable weather on its side.

''Anytime you go away and face different conditions, it's hard,'' Williams said. ''It's never easy playing in those situations. We'll see how tough we are mentally after the first game. After that, it doesn't matter who wins in that other bracket, it's going to be somebody good.''

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