Game 28: Dominant second half carries Terps

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Maybe Maryland authored its best game of the season against Florida State.

Maybe it didn’t.

Perhaps the Terrapins finally collected a victory with the potential to hold up as a quality victory in the eyes of college basketball’s most powerful arbiters, the NCAA tournament selection committee.

Perhaps not.

Regardless, Maryland emerged from a two-game homestand unscathed, collecting a 78-62 victory at Comcast Center against the short-handed Seminoles certain to offer at least some hope in the Terps’ long-term prospects.

“We’re a better team than we were when we played the teams that are ranked now and outside the conference,” coach Gary Williams said. “We’re a better team now and I knew it was going to be a process this year. It takes time to develop  a team. I think we’re laying the groundwork for this year’s team for very good things to happen in the future, but we want to win as many games as we can this year. To get 18 right now with three left, we’re doing some things.”

Terrell Stoglin scored 17 points and Dino Gregory added 14 for Maryland (18-10, 7-6 ACC), which reached the seven-victory plateau in conference play for the 18th consecutive season.

The margin hinted at a dominant performance, and for the final 20 minutes the Terps controlled the Seminoles (19-8, 9-4).

The first half, though, was something a bit different.

Maryland spotted Florida State an early seven-point lead, then rallied to assume a 36-27 edge late in the half. But much like Sunday’s eventual defeat of N.C. State, the Terps frittered away their advantage and were left with a one-point margin at the break.

There was no need to wait until the middle of the second half to dispatch the Seminoles. Florida State, playing only its second game without leading scorer and defensive ace Chris Singleton (broken foot), proved vulnerable to crisp passing and superb shooting without their star.

Maryland quickly made it a multi-possession game, and Jordan Williams’ basket with 11:42 to go gave the Terps a 55-44 lead. It was Maryland’s first double-digit lead, and Florida State never closed within less than 10 again.

“We just talked about it at halftime – we’re better than that,” Gary Williams said. “It’s one thing if Florida State can beat us. But why give back that lead we worked so hard to get? We talked about that some, and they were willing to come out and work.”

Much like other conference triumph, the Terps needed time to figure out the correct path to victory. Unlike Sunday, when Maryland was 0-for-1 from 3-point territory, the Terps were 7-for-14 from the perimeter. Stoglin’s 3-pointer in the closing minutes gave Maryland its largest lead of the night (72-55) and extinguished what little lingering hope the Seminoles held.

“We’re good shooters,” said guard Adrian Bowie, who scored 12 points. “We just haven’t knocked it down consistently. We had a day today when we knocked it down and it made it easier to drive when we knock down jump shots.”

There is some question over the long-term value of the victory. Florida State entered the night ranked 48th in the ratings percentage index, and was likely to fall out of the top 50 with a setback. Maryland began the night 0-8 against the top 50 and in dire need of something impressive to its name before March arrived.

Nonetheless, it was arguably the Terps’ best accomplishment of the season – and it came just days before a pivotal visit to No. 19 North Carolina.

“This is a huge win,” Jordan Williams said. “This is definitely going to help us a lot. That’s a team that beat the No. 1 team in the country at the time, which is huge. They’re definitely a great team. They’re not the same team they were without Chris, but they’re still a great team.”

Patrick Stevens

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