COLLEGE PARK -- This was not the way University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams wanted to prepare for tomorrow night's game at North Carolina. A tough practice might have better served the Terrapins.
It wasn't the way the Terrapins started last night against University of Maryland Baltimore County, it was the way they finished in a 92-66 victory. Or, as was the case at Cole Field House before 2,891 fans, didn't finish off the Retrievers.
Ahead by 33 points early in the second half, the Terps apparently had No. 5 Carolina on their minds, as they sleepwalked the rest of the way. The Retrievers cut the deficit to 17 points before Maryland (8-4) could pad its lead again.
"This was a tough game to play just because of where it fell," said Williams, whose team was coming off a 16-point victory over Clemson and will play No. 14 Duke on Saturday. "Every team in the country has games like this. Usually it's not really pretty, but we wanted to get a win, and we did."
It was the sixth victory in the past seven games for Maryland, but it was not impressive. It came against a team that has lost 10 straight, a team playing without two of its best players, a team Maryland had beaten by 52 points last season.
The defeat dropped UMBC to 1-11, but Retrievers coach Earl Hawkins saw some positive things from his mostly freshman and sophomore players in the second half, first-year forward Stanley Wright (23 points) in particular.
"I thought we showed a lot of heart out there," said Hawkins, whose team plays at Kansas on Thursday. "We certainly didn't quite. Being down by 20, it looked like they could take us by 50, but we managed to scrap back."
Asked if last year's blowout was in the back of his mind, Hawkins said: "It was definitely on my mind. I figured that if we could handle their press and keep it within 10 in the first half, we would get some confidence. We did play better in the second half, but we were down by too much."
With UMBC trailing by 51-29 at halftime, Hawkins called a timeout after Maryland started the second half with 11 straight points. The Retrievers turned up their defensive pressure after the timeout and scored 11 straight. The Terps didn't get things back together until the last five minutes.
The result was a 25-9 run by the Retrievers and some harsh words by Gary Williams to his players during a couple of timeouts. "You want perfection," said Williams. "But when you take a 30-point lead, that's going to happen. You expect them to make a run, but you don't want them to get their points off your turnovers."
The Terps eventually righted themselves, thanks to their tri-captains. Walt Williams led Maryland with 28 points, 18 in the first half, and continued his hot outside shooting with four of seven three-pointers. Matt Roe had 22 points on eight-of-14 shooting and Cedric Lewis added 12, to go with eight blocked shots.
Williams' performance, the fourth in the past five games in which he scored 26 or more, came against his coach at Crossland High School. "He's my good friend, and I look up to him, but when you step out on the court, you can't think about those things."
Said Hawkins: "He's physically stronger and more confident than last year. He's a much better outside shooter. I just marvel at how good he is, but we expected it when he was in the ninth grade."
Were he and his teammates peeking over their shoulders, looking down Tobacco Road?
"I don't think we were looking ahead to North Carolina, but after we got the big lead, we relaxed defensively and we were a little disoriented on offense," said Williams, who added eight rebounds and eight assists.
Said Lewis: "Last year we didn't take them seriously, and I was afraid that was going to happen again. We came out pretty strong, but we got a little sloppy."
It was the kind of dip in concentration and intensity that disturbs Williams, whose team will need to regain both when they play the Tar Heels at the Smith Center.
"You get better in tight games like the one we played against Clemson," said Gary Williams. "You like to grind it out for 40 minutes."