The Washington Times - November 3, 2009, 11:28PM

A very pleasant good evening from the pressure-cooked crucible that was, is and apparently will be Maryland basketball.

If you bet on Nov. 3 as the first time an off-court issue would command pretty much all the attention basketball normally would, you’re a winner.

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If you said Nov. 3 would be the first time the Terrapins’ depth at any position would be scrutinized with a magnifying glass, give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it.

If you called Nov. 3 as the first time Maryland coach Gary Williams would refuse to answer a reporter’s question – and even before it was asked, which might be the first time I’ve seen that from the veteran coach – you get a gold star for your prescience.

Yes, it’s Nov. 3. But the awkwardness, uneasiness and all-around dour mood sure made it feel like it was Feb. 3, yet another tense night in the middle of a tense season.

The storyline of the night was not Sean Mosley’s 14 points. Nor  was it Greivis Vasquez’s all-around performance.

It was only marginally about freshmen James Padgett and Jordan Williams, who split time at the five out of necessity moreso than design.

Instead, it was about forward Dino Gregory’s absence for a “violation of team rules” and the inability/unwillingness of anyone inside the program to provide a glimmer of insight into matters, including a potential time frame of the junior’s return. Which means it’s more than possible this is a longer-term issue.

Either Padgett or Williams was on the floor the entire night, and this was in a 75-54 victory in an exhibition game. Clearly, both will be used heavily if Gregory is out for any extended stretch – whether they’re ready or not since Steve Goins is hurt and options beyond the seldom-used sophomore are sparse.

(See that. It took nine paragraphs to come anywhere close to mentioning a score or what sort of happening unfolded at Comcast Center tonight).

Maryland wasn’t seriously threatened by Division II Indiana (Pa.), but it was a far from perfect night on the floor. The Terps were outrebounded. They shot 2-for-13 from beyond the 3-point line. They were sloppy early, and finished with 15 turnovers.

That was the work of 11 players in uniform. The one who wasn’t on the bench, quite understandably, attracted the bulk of the attention.

Gary Williams brushed off Gregory’s absence, comparing it to a player spraining an ankle and missing time. Vasquez insisted things would be fine. Still, the questions hovered, and will continue to do so until there is some resolution (or at least clarity) provided to a nebulous situation.

And just think.

It’s only Nov. 3. The annual joyride that is a Maryland basketball season has only just begun.

Patrick Stevens