LAHAINA, Hawaii — — Chaminade point guard Steven Bennett ran as fast as he could with the ball in his hands Monday in the opening round of the Maui Invitational. He treated each and every possession as a timed obstacle-course run, jetting left and right to avoid Maryland defenders before ending up at the basket.
Bennett's plan - his team's plan, really - was born out of necessity. He stood just 5 feet 6, and his teammates, though taller, paled in comparison to the Terrapins in terms of size and stature. For nearly a half, the plan worked. But in the end, No. 21 Maryland took advantage of its inherent advantages and prevailed, 79-51.
The Terrapins protected their lead in the second half by executing efficiently on offense and defending with a voracity unseen at the game's outset. Faced with its first legitimate scare of the season - from perhaps the opponent least likely thus far to provide it - Maryland responded by performing in a manner that would have prevented such consternation from building in the first place.
Though Chaminade is never favored to win even a single game in the tournament it hosts, the Silverswords occasionally make their opponents earn every bit of their victory. Last season, Indiana escaped the seventh-place game with a two-point win over Chaminade.
This year, a Maryland squad widely expected to return to the NCAA tournament took longer to assert its dominance than most would have predicted. Sophomore guard Sean Mosley scored 19 points, grabbed eight rebounds and led the Terrapins on their second-half surge.
Maryland opened the half on a 9-2 run, and the Silverswords could not recover, no matter how fast Bennett pushed them. Freshman forward Jordan Williams - who at 6-10 hulked over nearly every other player on the court - recorded 10 rebounds, and the Terrapins eventually pulled away in that category, too, claiming a 46-34 edge by game's end.
Maryland knew well the formula Chaminade used to build momentum in the game's early stages. When you don't have adequate size to match up with an opponent, you push the pace and hope to create as many possessions as possible. It was the formula that helped propel an undersized Terrapins squad to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season.
On Monday, it was the formula that afforded a rowdy Chaminade crowd contingent to dream - if only for the first half - of the type of seismic upset that hasn't been witnessed in these parts for nearly 27 years. On Dec. 23, 1982, Chaminade knocked off No. 1 Virginia and its All America center, Ralph Sampson, in one of the most shocking results in college basketball history.
Though a win over Maryland - which had jumped four spots in the Associated Press poll earlier in the day - would not have rated quite as high, it would have been a season-defining accomplishment for the Division II program, to say the least.
Chaminade opened with a simple game plan: Beat Maryland at its own game. The Silverswords raced up and down the court, frantically passing the ball from one player to the next. The intentional chaos paid dividends large and small. Chaminade players found open spots on the court, and their shots fell. For a time, the ploy flustered the Terrapins into a series of silly errors.
Less than three minutes into the game, senior guard Greivis Vasquez drove into the lane, turned and threw a pass into the Chaminade bench. A few moments earlier, Eric Hayes had stood in the spot in front of the opposing bench at which Vasquez had aimed. But Hayes shifted to the right, and the Silverswords ended up with the ball.
Vasquez carried a .303 shooting percentage into the contest, a three-game shooting slump that made him more passive on offense. Against Chaminade, he attempted only two shots in the first half and did not score until less than a minute remained before halftime. He finished with six points on 2-for-7 shooting and five assists.
The Silverswords never were able to expand their lead beyond three points, and eventually, Maryland's rare height advantage - not to mention its talent and athleticism - enabled it to regain momentum.
With just less than eight minutes remaining in the first half, Mosley scored to tie the game, 16-16. The basket sparked a 7-0 run that pushed Maryland ahead for good. By halftime, the Terrapins led by 10.
Cincinnati 67, No. 24 Vanderbilt 58: Yancy Gates, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, scored 12 in an 18-2 first-half run that set the tone for the Bearcats' victory. Cincinnati (3-0) will play Maryland in the semifinals today.
Jarmaine Beal had 16 points for the Commmodores (2-1), who were ranked for the first time since March 17, 2008. They shot 14 of 51 (27.5 percent) from the field.
Gonzaga 76, Colorado 72: Steven Gray scored 27 points and Matt Bouldin added 21 in helping the Zags (3-1) overcome a sluggish first half in the tournament's opening round.