COLLEGE PARK — Of all the Terps eager to begin a new season, few have seemed as excited -- or motivated -- as swingman Cliff Tucker.
Tucker began Monday night's opening exhibition game -- with solid shooting and flair and energy -- as if he had something to prove.
Which, of course, he has.
Tucker made seven of 10 shots (15 points) in Maryland's 106-58 victory against Division II Florida Southern.
But it was more than that. By the opening moments of the second half -- with the Terps leading 67-31 -- Tucker had eight assists (he finished with 10), five rebounds and a blocked shot.
"That wasn't anything out of the ordinary for Cliff to play at that level," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Hopefully he can play at that level every night."
Maryland fans know Tucker can score in spurts. Two seasons ago, he scored 18 points in 20 minutes against North Carolina and reminded everybody why there was excitement surrounding the forward from El Paso, Texas, when he committed to Maryland in 2007.
Last season, Tucker's rainbow 3-pointer beat Georgia Tech at the buzzer.
But Williams has seemed to challenge Tucker and fellow seniors Adrian Bowie and Dino Gregory this season. Maryland lost more than half its scoring from last season with the departures of Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes.
Tucker, who averaged 5.7 points per game last season, will be asked to do more. He conceded in the preseason that he needs to be more consistent. He said unabashedly that his goal is to become All-Atlantic Coast Conference.
Last night's Florida Southern game seemed a long way from ACC play. But for Tucker, it was a start.
"Coach told us at the beginning of the year that now we've got a chance to prove what we can do. We've got to lead this team," Tucker said after the game. "So we all come out with a chip on our shoulder. We all want to do whatever we can to help this team win."
Tucker started Monday night's game along with Gregory, sophomore forward-center Jordan Williams, Bowie and junior guard Sean Mosley.
Earlier, the team announced that Gregory (Mount St. Joseph) and Mosley (St. Frances) had been voted team captains by the players.
Undersized Florida Southern was quickly overmatched, trailing 60-28 at the half. "They just wore us down, their athleticism, their 6-5, 6-6 guards against our 6-1, 6-2 guards," said Florida Southern coach Linc Darner.
With the outcome not in doubt, Maryland fans focused on highlight-reel plays.
There was freshman guard Terrell Stoglin (nine points) double-pumping and banking in a shot as he was fouled. There was freshman Pe'Shon Howard (no points but five assists) making an over-the-shoulder pass to transfer Berend Weijs. Weijs missed the jumper but finished with two points and five rebounds. There was Mosley's dunk on an alley-oop from Mychal Parker.
Maryland opens the season Monday night against Seattle University at Comcast Center.
Gary Williams appeared miffed that the Terps did not receive votes in the preseason Top 25. "It's OK. We'll fight our way back again. It's just the way it goes," he said.
The early season will be an opportunity for the coach to tinker with his playing rotation.
Howard and sophomore forward James Padgett entered together as the first substitutes. Stoglin entered moments later, followed by Weijs.
Jordan Williams (8-for-12 from the field) led Maryland with 18 points. Bowie also had a good shooting night (6-for-7) and finished with 15 points.