Maryland's Greivis Vasquez, left, and Eric Hayes defend… (AP photo )
COLLEGE PARK — - It was Maryland's first game since a nine-day layoff for final exams, and Gary Williams looked edgier than usual.
The Maryland coach had noticed that Georgetown, Florida and Tennessee had all lost recently (to Old Dominion, Richmond and Southern California, respectively) during a period when many teams' schedules are interrupted by finals. Might his Terps (7-3) be rusty enough to have to worry about being challenged by Winston-Salem State?
Williams' concerns seemed warranted only during a first half in which Maryland was largely invisible inside. But the Terps, relying on their best three-point shooting of the season, got 27 points from Greivis Vasquez and 5-for-5 shooting from Cliff Tucker and overwhelmed the Rams, 98-55. It was Maryland's highest point total this season.
"I think we had to play through some rust while at the same time Winston-Salem was playing some pretty good basketball," the coach said. "I was pleased with what we did not playing for a while. Gradually you can wear a team like that down."
Vasquez, who finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double, topped his previous season high of 23 points (his career high is 35). The senior guard was at his animated best. After the Terps led by 12 at the half, Vasquez led Maryland's second-half scoring deluge. His layup and foul shot made it 59-34. His 3-pointer a few moments later made it 67-36, and he punctuated the shot by stopping to pose for the student section.
"I went through a slump [earlier in the season] and I kept fighting," Vasquez said. "I have to get to the paint and create something for my teammates. That's when I'm good. I should be getting those numbers every game." It was a hopeful sign for Maryland that reserves Adrian Bowie and Tucker - both being counted on for offensive spark - played meaningful roles.
Neither had scored in double figures this season. But against the undersized Rams, Bowie and Tucker combined to hit five of their first six three-point attempts. The shots came during a first half in which Maryland made as many three-pointers (nine) as it had converted in any complete game this season but still didn't pull away until the half's final moments.
Bowie finished with nine points and Tucker with 13. "When I knocked down the first shot, everything started feeling a lot better to me," Bowie said. "We shoot that way, I don't see many teams beating us."
Maryland shot 66.7 percent in the second half. The Terps forced 19 Winston-Salem turnovers in the game.
If Williams were to be concerned about a nonconference foe during the holiday season, William & Mary seemed a likelier prospect than Winston-Salem State (2-7) of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. William & Mary, whom the Terps host on Dec. 30, upset Wake Forest last month.
Winston-Salem State, meanwhile, had lost by 51 to Oregon and 42 to UNC-Charlotte. The Rams' three starting guards (6-foot-2, 6-foot-2, and 6-foot-zero) are collectively 10 inches shorter than Maryland's three backcourt starters.
The Rams hung around for most of the first half, trailing by just 33-29.
Terps scored just eight first-half points in the paint and forwards Dino Gregory, Jordan Williams and James Padgett were all scoreless.
But Gary Williams said Maryland made a point of of establishing its inside game in the second half.
Forward Landon Milbourne began the second half with a successful jump hook -– he later had a monster dunk to stretch the lead to 86-50 -– and Gary Williams was left to worry only about the next game.
WINSTON-SALEM STATE-Monger 4-11 1-6 9, Fisher 4-14 0-0 9, Jackson 3-6 0-0 7, Davis 6-10 3-5 15, Johnson 0-2 1-2 1, Wells 0-5 2-2 2, Carter 2-5 0-0 6, Kennings 0-2 0-0 0, Bolton 0-0 0-0 0, Green 0-0 0-0 0, Platt 0-1 0-0 0, Hobbs 0-1 0-0 0, Morris 3-5 0-2 6. Totals 22-62 7-17 55.
MARYLAND-Milbourne 4-11 0-2 8, Hayes 3-6 2-2 10, Mosley 3-6 6-6 12, Vasquez 9-16 5-5 27, Gregory 0-0 0-2 0, Choi 0-0 0-0 0, Levent 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 4-4 4-6 12, Bowie 3-5 0-0 9, Tucker 5-5 0-1 13, Padgett 2-4 3-4 7. Totals 33-58 20-28 98.
Half: Maryland, 41-29. 3-point goals: WSS 4-18 (Carter 2-4, Jackson 1-4, Fisher 1-5, Hobbs 0-1, Kennings 0-1, Monger 0-1, Wells 0-2); M 12-18 (Vasquez 4-4, Tucker 3-3, Bowie 3-5, Hayes 2-4, Milbourne 0-1, Mosley 0-1). Rebounds: WSS 36 (Davis 7); M 39 (Vasquez, Williams 8). Assists: WSS 13 (Carter, Fisher, Jackson, Wells 3); M 22 (Vasquez 11). Total fouls: WSS 18, M 16. A: 14,262.