COLLEGE PARK - A year ago, a distracted Maryland men's basketball team came into its last game before final exams dismissing its opponent.
Not only did the Terps lose to Ohio that night, but they also lost to American in their first game after finals.
Last night, Maryland was neither distracted by nor dismissive of Delaware State.
The Terps came out firing from all distances and scoring with ease. Maryland built its lead to double digits in the first seven minutes, to as many as 23 points in the first half and cruised to an 86-58 victory before a Comcast Center crowd that was announced at 17,014 but could not have been more than 5,000.
"We've spoken a lot about what happened last year around this time," junior forward Landon Milbourne said. "I think we're headed on the right path so far. We've got a lot of positive energy around here. Guys are willing to come in here and work hard to make sure we don't have the same outcome as we did last year."
For the second straight game, Milbourne scored a career high, finishing with 23 points after scoring 20 against George Washington. Junior guard Greivis Vasquez scored 16 to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists. Starting guards Adrian Bowie and Eric Hayes each scored 12.
Maryland coach Gary Williams attributed much of last night's effort to Milbourne.
"Right now, at this point in the season, I don't think there's a better-conditioned player than Landon Milbourne in terms of how hard he works," Williams said of one of his three captains. "Landon can play 40 minutes if he had to, there's no doubt in my mind."
That Milbourne had to play only 27 minutes was attributable mostly to the fact that Maryland put away Delaware State early, something it didn't do often last season, when it lost those back-to-back home games in December. This season's Terps surged early only in the opener against Bucknell and then against Youngstown State.
But Milbourne's minutes were productive. Along with the points, which came on 9-for-12 shooting and making all five of his free throws, he had seven rebounds and a blocked shot. He also didn't commit a turnover on a night when Maryland had only 11, compared with 23 assists.
"Landon, he gives you that toughness that you need, that he's going to play hard on every play," Williams said. "He was great tonight."
Said Milbourne: "Finding my spots, I know how to get open now. A lot of things I was doing at the beginning, standing around, hoping guys would give me the ball."
After building their lead to 40-21 at halftime, the Terps didn't give Delaware State any new sense of confidence, false or otherwise, coming out of their locker room for the second half. Maryland scored the first seven points of the half to build their lead to 47-21, and the Hornets never got closer than 20 the rest of the game.
The victory is Maryland's third straight and comes as the Terps begin a 10-day break during final exams before returning to the court Dec. 22 against American.
"It's no harder for us than any other college team," Williams said of the break.
Asked about keeping the focus for American, Williams said it shouldn't be too difficult.
"Everyone knows we lost to them," said Williams, whose first head coaching job came at the Washington school. "The players know. It's a matter of preparing as we do for every game. We didn't do a good job last year. They played well. It was a tough combination."
Milbourne said the team is looking for payback.
"I think we're definitely going to be fired up," he said.
play it again
Passing the rock
Maryland had a season-high 23 assists (compared with 11 turnovers), with junior guard Greivis Vasquez leading with seven (and only one turnover in 34 minutes). Sophomore swingman Cliff Tucker had six assists in 19 minutes off the bench.
The Terps got strong contributions from Tucker, who also had seven points and two steals in his most productive effort since losing his starting job two weeks ago. Sophomore forward Dino Gregory had a career-high eight points and three blocks.
Maryland (7-2) has 10 days off before playing American (4-4) on Dec. 22 at Comcast Center. The Terps lost to the Eagles last season in a similar situation.
AMERICAN (4-4) @ MARYLAND (7-2)
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM