SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Obinna Ekezie bulled around the basket like Shaquille O’Neal and teammate Rodney Elliott did anything he wanted Thursday in Maryland’s 82-68 win over Utah State in the NCAA West Regional.
A first-round loser the past two years, Maryland brushed off a few scary minutes midway through the first half, regained control by popping 3-pointers, and dominated the entire second half.
Ekezie, a 6-foot-10, 256-pounder from Nigeria, started the game with a two-handed dunk and finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Elliott, leaner at 6-8 but strong and quick, posted 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Maryland (20-10) ruled the boards with a 47-27 advantage, and the smaller Aggies (25-8) had to rely almost entirely on guard Marcus Saxon. That worked pretty well for the Aggies in the first half, when Saxon scored 18 points. But the strategy failed in the second half when Maryland made adjustments on defense to limit him to seven points and a total of 25.
Sarunas Jasikevicius, who popped three 3-pointers, scored 16 points and had seven assists for Maryland, and Laron Profit added 12 points and six assists.
Utah State, which shot only 39 percent from the field, got 14 points from Kevin Rice and 12 from Donnie Johnson.