Maryland, and especially freshman magician Albert King, put on a dazzling four-minute spurt early in the second half last night to a 91-78 victory over injured and outmanned Western Kentucky in the opening game of the Maryland Invitational Tournament at Cole Field House.
Mike Davis' half-dozen blocked shots, Lawrence Boston's shooting touch Billy Bryant's fast breaks and Larry Gibson's rebound layups complemented King's highwire act as Maryland ran its record to 8-1.
St. John's met Georgia Tech in the evening's second game. The winner will meet Maryland at 9 p.m. at Cole Field House on Thursday for the MIT championship.
Maryland, trailing by a small margin through much of a slip-shod first half, saw it 44-42 intermission grow to 67-49. Later, Western cut the margin to 10 points twice.
Boston led Maryland with 23 points; Bryant had 21 and King 13, 13 in the second half.
James Johnson, Western Kentucky's best player averaging 22.4 points, watched the game in street clothes with a sprained ankle. Nevertheless, it took Maryland more than a half to become untracked.
The Terps led 44-42 at intermission because Lawrence Boston had a hot hand (13 points).
Maryland missed layups, forgot defensive assignments, and committed 10 turnovers.
"Maryland looks too confident, like they think all they have to do is show up to win," said Boston Celtic general manager Red Auerbach. "If Maryland were playing a deliberate team like Princeton, they'd be down by 15. Maryland players are turning their heads on defense and losing track of their men."
Particularly misplaced by the Terp defense was the Hilltoppers' one scoring threat, 6-7 Aaron Bryan, who had a fast 17 points in the half. If he had had his 6-7 front court mate Johnson for help, the Terp might have been in trouble.
But Maryland emerged from the dressing room properly chastened and ran off a 21-6 streak against the rapidly tiring visitors in the first 4:20 of the period for a 65-48 margin.
Frosh Albert King, the Terps "Prince Albert" who seems to have been kept in a can much of the season, made four spectacular baskets. A flying lefty layup, a spinning jumper and two offensive rebounds showed the Kingly touch.
After King had snatched a rebound in midair, windmilled the ball down to his knees, switched hands and finger rolled a sweet layup - all without returning to earth - one fan in th smallish crowd roared, "Ain't it the truth."