Maryland guard Jo Jo Hunter returned to the starting lineup, played almost the entire game and scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half to give Maryland a much needed 81-68 win over Nevada-Las Vegas last night.

The victory at Cole Field house was the Terrapins' first since Jan. 16, ending a four-game losing streak in which Mike Davis was dropped from the team and several other players vented their complaints publicly.

Maryland is 12-8 overall and next plays Wednesday night against North Carolina. The Terps are 1-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

UNLV, now 15-6, is a shell of last year's team that reached the final four of the NCAA tournament. And its star player, Reggie Theus, was a shell of himself last night.

Theus paced a poor shooting night by all the Rebels but still scored 21 points, 15 of them at the foul line. Tony Smith added 20 points on rainbow jumpers.

The crowd, whose singing voices had grown rusty, wailed "Amen, Amen" for several minutes and gave the Terps a standing ovation.

Al King added 15 points, and Lawrence Boston had 14 for the Terps.

The Terps enjoyed leads of 2-0 and 4-2 before UNLV's 1-2-2 zone defense stopped them.

The Terps were unable to work the ball inside to Larry Gibson (no point in the first half). Lawrence Boston did get eight points, but his playing time was limited because of three fouls.

Most of the offensive work in the first half was left to forward Al King. He scored eight points on three of eight shots and two of four free throws.

King and Ernest Graham alternated on the unenviable chore of guarding UNLV's sleek forward, Reggie Theus, and in so doing sent Theus to the foul line 10 times in the half. Theus maade all 10 and scored two field goals for 14 points.

With the score tied at 11, Maryland came up dry on its next five possessions, thanks to turnovers by King, Jo Jo Hunter and Greg Manning and two missed shots by King.

Vegas capitalized with six straight points, beginning with a drive by free-spirit guard Tony Smith, who lost Hunter along the way.

UNLV scored its next four on semi-fast breaks and Maryland called time after the Rebels surged to a 17-11 lead.

Maryland rallied again near the end of the half and had a chance to tie at 33 with 1:34 left. But Manning lost the ball on a bounce pass 'o the lane, and Vegas whiled away the final 57 seconds before Smith swished a 20-footer at the halftime buzzer.