WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (AP) -- Wally Szczerbiak left the floor with a gash under his right eye and the Most Valuable Player award in the Schick Rookie Challenge.

Szczerbiak of the Minnesota Timberwolves scored 27 points to lead a team of second-year NBA players past a rookie squad 121-113 in a fast-paced, above-the-rim game featuring slams, no-look passes and alley-oops.

Momentarily irritated when Khalid El-Amin accidentally hit him across the face in the second half, Szczerbiak slammed the ball to the floor before breaking into a smile and then slapping hands with El-Amin.

Moments later Szczerbiak was forced to leave the floor with blood dripping from his cheek.

"He just caught me good right under the cheekbone. It'll be OK," said Szczerbiak, who's been bothered by a sore knee and considered not playing.

"Once I reassessed the situation and saw how important it was to the fans and the NBA and pretty much the whole game, why wouldn't I want to come and be a part of it?" he said. "I think that's how most of the guys feel."

The game was part of the All-Star Weekend festivities, with the game itself on Sunday.

Local favorite, Steve Francis, who left Maryland after his junior season, added 20 points for the Sophomores. Quentin Richardson paced the Rookies with 20.

Francis hit three straight three-pointers, delighting some of his former fans and getting the team of second-year players off and running in the first half.

Before his third trey, Francis rolled the ball on his finger to fake the shot and then moved to the corner where he dared Marc Jackson to guard him before connecting.

Szczerbiak also hit three first-half three-pointers and scored 15 points to help the Sophomores pull out to a 10-point lead. He finished with five three-pointers, while shooting 11-of-13 from the field.

Khalid El-Amin
Chicago's Khalid El-Amin, who scored 18 points for the Rookies, accidentally opened a gash under MVP Wally Szczerbiak's eye. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE Photos)

"I can't do junk like those guys," Szczerbiak said. "I had to do something in order to put on a show. A lot of guys want to high fly and dunk. What I do best is knock down the shots."

Darius Miles was 6-for-6 from the field in the first half -- all on dunks. He added a seventh in the second half and could have had an eighth in the closing seconds when the Sophomores backed off and let him fly through the lane. But he missed.

In a show of solidarity, the rookie team all sported headbands, including Mike Miller, who wore his like an ear warmer.

The game pitted teammates against teammates with Lamar Odom of the Clippers woofing at his Los Angeles buddies Richardson and Miles of the Rookie team. When the game was over, Odom gave Richardson a piggy-back ride off the floor.

"There was something of everything, just watching the highlights, the alley-oops, the friendships," said Jason Terry of the Sophomores. "That's why you come to a game like this."

The Rookies stayed close and were within six late before Phoenix's Shawn Marion took two straight passes from Baron Davis for a layin and dunk and then slammed again after Francis missed.