Offense is Terps' Game 2 focus

Despite rout in opener, UM `didn't finish well'

College Basketball

November 25, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Tenacious defense has been a signature throughout most of Gary Williams' tenure as the Maryland men's basketball coach, and it showed up with devastating emphasis three nights ago. Tonight, Williams would like to the see the Terrapins make a more notable appearance on the other side of the ledger.

Not that Williams is complaining too much in the wake of Maryland's 79-48 season-opening victory over American on Saturday night. Powered by its smothering defensive pressure, Maryland scored 47 of the game's first 55 points.

But George Mason most likely will put up stiffer resistance at Comcast Center, where the Terps did not exactly sparkle on offense last weekend.

Maryland missed 13 of its first 17 shots, mainly because the Terps were tentative pounding the ball inside against a 2-3 zone defense and failed to take early advantage of open shots from the wings. The Terps made just two of their first 15 three-point attempts. In all, the half-court offense yielded a mixed bag at best.

"Offensively, it was good for us. It proved we still have a long way to go," said Williams, after watching Maryland score 34 points off turnovers. "We didn't finish well, and we have to learn how to do that."

Among the encouraging developments were the emergence of sophomore guard Chris McCray and the awakening of freshman guard Mike Jones.

McCray showed no effects from a sprained ankle he suffered during the teams' final exhibition game, and his shooting touch returned after a shaky first half. He hit back-to-back three-pointers early in the second half and finished with 10 points.

Jones also wound up with 10 points after missing all three of his three-point attempts in the first half and struggling with his outside shot during the preseason. Ranked on some recruiting lists as the No. 2 shooting guard behind LeBron James a year ago, Jones made two threes and scored eight points in the second half.

Jones combined with guard D.J. Strawberry (seven points, five rebounds) and forward Ekene Ibekwe (nine points, three blocks) to highlight a fine debut for Maryland's five freshmen.

"That's how [Jones] built his reputation, as a pure shooter in high school. The toughest thing to adjust to as a shooter [in college] is, all of a sudden, you have people flying at you a little higher," Williams said.

"That might cause you to think too much when you shoot. When you're open, shoot. Period. Don't worry about your follow-through. [As a coach], you keep telling him when he's open, shoot the ball."

For the most part, Williams had no problems with Maryland's commitment to defense. The Terps did not need to resort to full-court pressure too often to rattle American, which was reduced to throwing up playground-worthy shots during a 15-minute scoring drought.

That scene probably will not be repeated against George Mason (1-0), the nearby Colonial Athletic Association team that sports impressive quickness, runs a four-guard offense, can shoot the ball and brings good size off the bench.

The Patriots, who are coached by Jim Larranaga - he owns a 299-243 career record - are coming off a 95-82 victory over Morehead State, which went down under the weight of George Mason's 56.5 percent shooting, including 11-for-22 from beyond the arc.

Based on recent history, the Patriots should be loose. The two schools have played only twice since 1989, and both games were close calls.

In March 2001, in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Terps slogged their way to an 83-80 victory over George Mason, en route to their first Final Four appearance.

And in December 1999, when Maryland fielded a team nearly as young as this one, the Terps escaped Cole Field House with a 69-66 victory.

Terps tonight

Matchup: George Mason (1-0) vs. Maryland (1-0)

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

Time: 8

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

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