COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Despite rumors a lineup change could be coming, Maryland Head Coach Gary Williams kept his starters together Wednesday night as the Terrapins (7-3) cruised to a 99-56 victory over UNC Greensboro (0-8) at Comcast Center.
The only player whose starting role has not been questioned by fans or analysts is center Jordan Williams, who lead the way for the Terps with 23 points and 13 rebounds in the easy win over the Spartans.
Guard Adrian Bowie and Forward Cliff Tucker have both been subject to the most criticism in recent weeks but responded in big ways against UNCG. Tucker tallied 13 points and a team high five assists in the victory while Bowie added 16 points. Guard Sean Mosley also filled up the stat sheet nicely, scoring six to go with four rebounds and four assists.
Maryland’s lineup (which also includes forward Dino Gregory) has been effective at times over the first ten games of the season, but fans have hoped to see emerging freshmen guards Terrell Stoglin and Pe’Shon Howard slide their way into the lineup, as well as sophomore big man James Padgett.
After a poor performance from a number of the starters in a 64-61 loss to Temple in the BB&T Classic over the weekend, there was a thought Gary Williams might shake the lineup to get going offensively. Williams had benched a number of starters during the game at Verizon Center.
“I considered everything” said the head coach after the win. “I watched a lot of video and things like that. A lot of times it’s a gut feeling. You hope you make the right decision because you don’t want to hurt anyone, you don’t want to make an unfair choice. I think it worked out well tonight.”
Gary Williams was particularly defensive of Tucker and Bowie.
“I really believe in them. They’ve been loyal four year players. That means a lot to me, I don’t know if it means a lot to everyone else. I’ll kinda go to the wall for the guys like that that have stuck with the program and played behind some good players and now it’s their turn. They struggled a little bit in a couple games, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be outstanding players for us this year.”
Tucker said Williams challenged the starters following Sunday night’s loss to the Owls, not letting them know they’d start against the Spartans until earlier Wednesday.
“I think we all practiced great” said Tucker. “(Gary Williams) put a lot of pressure on us, we all stepped up to the challenge.”
Maryland will open ACC play Sunday afternoon in College Park against Boston College, and it is unlikely any lineup changes will be made before the Terps battle the Eagles. Following their contest with BC, Maryland will take a 10 day break for final exams before returning to the floor December 22 against NJIT.
Should any changes to the lineup be coming, that might be the most logical time to make them.
Gary Williams may not have a lengthy history of midseason lineup changes during his tenure at his alma mater, but a move certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented. Memorable changes include Mosley’s insertion into the lineup as a freshman during the 2008-09 season, and the decision to replace Danny Miller with Byron Mouton in 2000-01, a move that would help the Terps reach their first Final Four in school history. Just two years earlier, Gary Williams benched All-ACC big man Obinna Ekezie in favor of freshman Lonny Baxter.
Sunday’s conference opener could be that much more significant for Tucker and Bowie as rumors of changes continue to swirl.
“(Gary Williams) knows how much ability I have to perform” said Bowie. “He’s been with me for four years now. It’s more of a challenge than anything.”
While most starters played well in Wednesday night’s win, their opponent did not provide the best level of competition possible. And while players like Bowie and Mosley are trying to reassure Gary Williams that they can perform at a consistent level, the younger players on the team are trying to take advantage of what might be an opportunity to crack the lineup. In the win over the Spartans, Stoglin tallied 18 points and Padgett added nine boards.
Maryland will get a much better level of competition Sunday. It will be a great opportunity for veterans and underclassmen alike to state their case.
As Gary Williams said Wednesday, “we’ll find out where we are against Boston College.”
Hear from Gary Williams, Jordan Williams, Tucker and Bowie following Wednesday night’s win NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!