Maryland senior swingman Cliff Tucker scores two points in… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
COLLEGE PARK — After dropping both games of last weekend's 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden, the Maryland men's basketball team chalked up its trip to New York as a learning experience.
The Terps vowed to fix their poor free-throw shooting, stay out of foul trouble and find a secondary option to lessen the burden on leading scorer Jordan Williams.
In Tuesday's nonconference matchup with Delaware State, the Terps made good on all three promises, disposing of the Hornets, 72-54, before an announced 12,178 at Comcast Center.
With a 19-point lead entering halftime, the Terps had the game wrapped up early. Maryland went on a 22-4 run over a seven-minute span in the first half, and, if not for a noticeable drop in intensity to open the second, coach Gary Williams would have been thoroughly pleased with his team's effort.
"It was just kind of a thing that we thought we were too in control of the game and we have to play like the score doesn't matter, especially this time of year," Williams said. "There [are] some things we can work on in practice."
Maryland was led by senior swingman Cliff Tucker, who scored a team-high 15 points in only 24 minutes. As the Hornets focused on Jordan Williams in the paint, Tucker capitalized on open looks and functioned as the Terps' go-to threat in the field.
"Cliff is a very important part of our team, obviously one of our best shooters and double-figure scorers," Gary Williams said.
Tucker has scored in double figures in each of Maryland's six games this season.
"They played in the zone really far," Tucker said. "They were almost half-court in the zone. We kind of weren't ready for that. We didn't go over that in practice, so it kind of confused us, so it took us awhile to get a flow of the offense. I think once we got it going, we did all right."
Playing in only its second game of the season and first in 10 days, Delaware State (1-1) had little room for error. The Hornets struggled to penetrate the Maryland defense and scored only 10 points in the paint, compared with Maryland's 36.
Junior guard Jay Threatt led the Hornets with 15 points -- nine in the second half -- and seven assists.
Maryland senior forward Dino Gregory (Mount St. Joseph) fell two rebounds short of his second doubledouble, finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds. Gregory carried the Terps on both sides of the court early, twisting through a wall of defenders to score his first basket five minutes into the half.
His 10 points in the first half matched his previous season high for a game.
"They left me open a lot for elbow jump shots and for baseline jump shots," Gregory said. "Everything is coming together for me, so I can trust my game because I know I'm making them."
Junior forward Berend Weijs sparked the Terps in limited action, finishing with a career-high six points and four rebounds in nine minutes.
Gary Williams singled out Weijs as one of the night's most important contributors after he made an impact in the frontcourt and spelled Jordan Williams, who was held to six points and eight rebounds.
"He's never really been in a system before where he's had to really do anything but kind of stay in the middle of the defense," Gary Williams said of Weijs. "It's great insurance to have him. We need four pretty good-sized people in there if we expect to do anything this year."
Although he missed a dunk midway through the second half, Weijs came back with a violent block on the ensuing possession less than a minute later.
The defensive effort, while at times sloppy, showed marked improvement from the weekend. Maryland out-rebounded the Hornets 40-20, holding them to three boards in the first half.
"Defensively, we were good for periods of the game," Gary Williams said. "We weren't good on a consistent basis, but for periods we were good."