Already once this season, Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams has voiced uncertainty regarding his starting lineup. There have been games in which the team's three senior starters — Cliff Tucker, Adrian Bowie and Dino Gregory — have failed to produce consistently and convincingly enough to warrant a spot on the floor.
After his team dropped its Atlantic Coast Conference opener 10 days ago with another disappointing showing from its upperclassmen, Williams did not hesitate to make a change.
The coach rewarded freshman guard Pe'Shon Howard for his effort in practice the past week with his first career start in Wednesday's 89-50 win over New Jersey Institute of Technology, and sat Tucker for the first time this season.
The Terps responded with six players scoring in double digits, while the team shot 60 percent from 3-point range in front of an announced 11,689 at Comcast Center.
Gregory and sophomore center Jordan Williams both scored 14 points, while Bowie added 13.
"I was pleased that we came out with pretty good effort intensity-wise," Gary Williams said. "Games like this, after exams, where we haven't played in 10 days, they're hard because the players are leaving after the game to go home and get a couple days off now. You never know the mindset going into this game so you worry a little bit."
The coach sat Tucker so that the senior swingman could get a better feel for the action after scoring more than eight points only once during his recent month-long slump. Tucker appeared to receive the message, sparking the team with 11 points, two 3-pointers and six assists.
"You never know how that's going to work and there's a reason you hesitate changing the lineup because sometimes you lose a player," Gary Williams said. "A lot of people thought we should have changed our lineup for a long time."
Howard made an early impact for Maryland, sinking a 3-pointer from the top of the key for the team's first field goal a minute into the game. But a succession of poor decisions had him back on the bench by the 15-minute mark of the first half.
As he tried to make a quick pass to junior guard Sean Mosley on the wing, Howard fired the ball into the hands of NJIT guard P.J. Miller, and Howard's ill-advised 3-pointer moments later had his coach twisting in frustration on the sideline.
But NJIT proved to be no match for Maryland's talent and strength. The Highlanders, in their second season of Division I play, trailed by 32 points at halftime. Sophomore guard Chris Flores let the visitors with 10 points.
Williams added 12 rebounds for his sixth straight double double and his 10th of the season. He's now one double double shy of tying Joe Smith's school record of seven straight set in 1995.
"It's unbelievable to put my name in the same list as Joe Smith," Jordan Williams said. "He's a legend at this school. I don't look too much into it. I just try to play basketball."
Gregory posted his second consecutive 14-point performance to match his career high, and finished one rebound shy of his second double double of the year.
While Gary Williams wouldn't commit to a lineup for the team's next game — Wednesday against North Florida — he noted that the effort in practice could ultimately determine his next starting five.
"Last year we had our five and it wasn't too hard to put a lineup card up in the dugout," he said. "But this year is a little different. That's the great thing about coaching because it's never the same."