COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Resisting the urge to peek toward two big games at Madison Square Garden later this week, the Terrapins used a strong first-half finish to blow out Maine, 89-59, and move their record to 3-0 through the first week of the season.
Jordan Williams continued his early domination, scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double to begin the season, and senior guard Cliff Tucker scored 16 points in the first half to pace a 23-6 run that put Maryland ahead by 23 points at intermission.
Having played at Utah Valley on Friday night, the Black Bears were playing their second road game in less than 48 hours, committing 17 turnovers and shooting just 32.7 percent from the field in a sluggish performance against the athletic Terrapins.
“The big thing today is that I thought we executed a little better in the half court, which we were looking for,” Gary Williams said. “But nobody is where they want to be Nov. 14th, you have to keep improving. If you can’t play in March, then it doesn’t matter.”
The Terps’ performance from the free-throw line was an encouraging sign for the Terps in the win against Maine. After shooting an atrocious 27.8 percent from the line against Charleston, Maryland shot 75.8 percent (25-for-33) against the Black Bears, including an impressive 19-for-22 in the second half.
Maryland has shaved its number of turnovers to 14 after committing 47 turnovers in their first two contests.
Concerns remain, however, especially with the inconsistency of junior captain Sean Mosley, who went scoreless after dealing with foul trouble in 16 minutes of action Sunday. After scoring 21 points against Seattle in the season opener, Mosley has scored a combined three points in the two games since, not exactly the performance you want from your leading returning scorer and a key player the Terps are counting on to pick up the scoring slack left behind by the three graduating seniors from a season ago.
“He’s struggling a little bit, but [Mosley's] a competitor,” Williams said. “He’s gotten where he is by being a great leader and great competitor.”
Following the game, Williams eluded to his tentative eight- or nine-man rotation he’ll use when the competition stiffens this week. The head coach specifically mentioned Stoglin, Howard, Berend Weijs, James Padgett, and Haukur Palsson — in that order — when asked about whether he had settled on an early rotation off the bench.
“I want to be able to play people at different positions and have interchangeable parts.”
With three nondescript opponents now out of the way — and the Terps having survived a scare against the College of Charleston Wednesday night — the road becomes far more difficult this week when Maryland travels to Madison Square Garden to take on No. 5 Pittsburgh Thursday night and either No. 13 Illinois or Big XII power Texas on Friday night to conclude the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.
Freshman guards Terrell Stoglin (14 points) and Pe’Shon Howard (5 points) have easily been the most impressive of the Maryland newcomers, but no one knows how the pair will respond under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden and a top-5 opponent in Pittsburgh.
The trip to the Big Apple figures to be a good litmus test to gauge where the Terps stand presently after two easy wins against Seattle and Maine and a surprising thriller against Charleston in the opening week of the season.
“Especially in the game against Charleston, you can see what we are made of,” guard Adrian Bowie said. “The first three games were a good tone-setter and now we have a really good team that we’re going to play and potentially a really good team after that too.”
A disappointing performance in the championship rounds of the preseason tournament, however, shouldn’t discourage too much in projecting how competitive the Terps will be in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. One only has to think back to last Thanksgiving when the eventual ACC regular season co-champions went to Maui and laid eggs against Cincinnati and Wisconsin to remember how quickly fortunes can change in the college basketball season.
“I think every team is hoping you’re at a pretty good level now,” Gary Williams said. “We’ll see where we are [this week].”
NOTES: The Terps have won their first three games five seasons in a row. … Williams had his fifth straight double-double dating back to last season, the first Terp to accomplish that since Joe Smith in 1995. The sophomore also scored 20-plus points for the second time this year and third time in his career. … Despite facing heavy pressure for playing time from Stoglin and Howard, Bowie finished with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, and no turnovers. … Tucker has scored in double figures in three straight games, the first time in his career he’s done that.