Sean Mosley pumps his fist after scoring two points and drawing… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
COLLEGE PARK — - It's not so much that the Maryland Terrapins have now won four of five games to open the Atlantic Coast Conference season. Rather, it's how they are winning that is noteworthy.
In a season in which most ACC teams are models of inconsistency, the Terps, who dispatched Miami, 81-59, on Tuesday night, have been pouncing on teams early with defense and rolling to the sort of lopsided victories that demand the rest of the league take notice.
The win, sparked by 16 points apiece from Landon Milbourne and Greivis Vasquez, was the sixth game in the past seven (including nonconference games) in which the Terps (14-5, 4-1 ACC) have won by double digits. Maryland now has sole possession of first place in the ACC.
Maryland's recent games are so similar that they begin to meld together into a blur of Terps baskets and opponent turnovers.
The gold-clad Terps have typically disrupted opponents early with pressure defense, then converted turnovers into points.
On Saturday night, the Terps used 10 first-half turnovers to roll to an early lead over North Carolina State that they never surrendered. Against Miami, Maryland collected 14 first-half turnovers to cruise to a 17-point advantage over the Hurricanes (15-5, 1-5), who have lost four straight.
It's the first time since 2003 that the Terps have collected consecutive 20-point-plus victories over conference opponents.
"They're a very cohesive unit right now, and if they keep it up, they very well could be one of the better teams in our league," Miami coach Frank Haith said.
Maryland is shooting significantly better than last season - nearly 49 percent entering the Miami game, in which the Terps shot 50.9 percent. But its success is built on a defense in which players are routinely landing on the floor in pursuit of shooters or loose balls.
"We've really stressed that this year, that we had to get more physical defensively," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We have to play like that all year round because each game is so important."
Williams has said that his team can't afford to be outworked by the opponents - and the Terps have not disappointed their coach.
"I think it's the passion to stop people," said Milbourne, who led the Terps to their early lead with 13 first-half points on 6-for-8 shooting. "When a guy scores more than once in practice, Coach gets on us."
One sequence against the Hurricanes was telling.
With the Terps leading 26-17, Maryland guard Sean Mosley (10 points, seven rebounds) hit the floor after taking a charge from Miami's James Dews. On the other end, Mosley collected an offensive rebound, laid the ball in and was fouled. The sequence exhibited what Williams frequently tells his team: Defense leads to offense.
Said the coach Tuesday night: "The aggressiveness on the defensive end of the court filters into the offensive end."
With Maryland leading 48-31, the Terps had more than twice as many field-goal attempts as Miami. The Terps were 17-for-35, while the Hurricanes were 8-for-16. True to its formula, Maryland was collecting the extra shots because of Miami's turnovers (14) and its own offensive rebounds (10).
Asked how good Maryland can be this season, Williams would only say, "It's too early."
Maryland will try to extend its run Sunday at Clemson, where the Terps were blown out last season.
"I'm happy about this win," Vasquez said. "But I'll be more happy if we get Clemson."
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