UM wins, but 2nd-half glass empty

Early cushion helps Terps move to 9-2

`we lost our focus a little bit'

No. 16 Maryland 68, Delaware State 54

December 29, 2005|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

COLLEGE PARK -- Whether his team is playing Duke or Delaware State, Maryland coach Gary Williams still paces the sideline of Comcast Center with his hands on his hips, and he still screams loud enough for the fans across the court to hear.

He never lets up, Williams said recently, and he expects the same from his players.

In the second half last night, he didn't get it.

The No. 16 Terps (9-2) held Delaware State (2-9) to 13 first-half points en route to a 68-54 win, but it was the Hornets' ability to close a 26-point deficit to 10 in the second half that bugged Williams.

"They deserve a lot of credit for the way they played tonight in terms of outplaying us in the second half," said Williams, who earned his 550th career win and is six shy of becoming Maryland's all-time winningest coach. "We thought it would automatically be that way in the second half. It doesn't work that way."

Maryland hung in, though, and won its second of four nonconference games that are sandwiched between its upset of then-No. 6 Boston College and the heart of its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, which begins Jan. 7 in Miami.

The Terps came out strong against the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions, holding them to 25 percent shooting - and only five baskets - in the first half.

It was the second straight game in which the Terps held their opponent below 20 in the first half, as Maryland built its lead to 26 before heading to the locker room with a 36-13 edge.

Delaware State guard Jahsha Bluntt hit back-to-back three-pointers to start the second half, and the Hornets made five of their first seven field-goal attempts. Trailing 44-25 with 14:28 left, Delaware State used a 12-3 run to close the gap to 47-37 with 9:20 to play.

"When you get up by 20 points it's kind of tough to keep your focus," said junior guard D.J. Strawberry, who finished with 10 points and four assists. "I think we lost our focus a little bit today. But we know we have to be ready for ACC play. It's getting closer and closer, so we're going to put together 40 minutes against VMI [on Saturday afternoon]."

The Terps scored six straight points to regain control and with five minutes left had again increased their lead to 20.

Senior forward Nik Caner-Medley led Maryland with 16 points and was one of four players to reach double figures, including junior forward Ekene Ibekwe, who earned his second straight double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Senior guard Chris McCray didn't start because he had missed a team meeting. He had started every other game except Dec. 7 against Western Carolina, when he sat because of an ankle injury.

Junior Mike Jones started in his place last night and scored three points. McCray finished with 11.

After Maryland's 81-55 drubbing of American on Friday, Caner-Medley said the team's defense was in midseason form, and last night - thanks in part to him - the Terps continued to look ahead of schedule.

Caner-Medley had five of Maryland's eight first-half steals, and the Hornets turned the ball over 11 times.

Ibekwe, who averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in the previous three games, scored three consecutive baskets - including two dunks - to keep Maryland ahead early 9-4.

After a Delaware State basket, the Terps used a 10-0 run to pull ahead 19-6 and never looked back.

Bluntt was the only player on the Hornets' roster to reach double figures, scoring a game-high 24 points - 20 of which came in the second half.

Delaware State is a team that concerned Williams because the Hornets have been known to control the game's tempo by slowing down and running out the shot clock - which they did.

The difference in the second half was that they shot 48.4 percent. It didn't help Maryland, either, that the Terps committed 17 turnovers.

"We know we have to sharpen up a lot," McCray said. "Once we start cutting down on our turnovers and start shooting the ball a little better from behind the arc, nobody in the country can get us."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

VMI@No. 16 Maryland Saturday, 2 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

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