- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

Maryland treated the basketball as little more than a grease-lathered prop throughout a surprisingly close first half in a 20-turnover performance against American yesterday afternoon at Comcast Center.

The Eagles more than repaid the generosity though, committing 15 turnovers of their own en route to a 66-54 loss to the Terrapins.

Senior guard D.J. Strawberry scored 19 points and junior forward James Gist added 13 points and 12 rebounds for Maryland (11-2), which eventually emerged from its first-half fog to collect a victory in its first game after a 10-day break.

“I was watching the Phoenix Suns game last night [against the Wizards] and they were complaining they hadn’t played for two days. Well, we hadn’t played for [10] days,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “It’s going to happen, it’s going to be there, but as a coach you can’t let that be an excuse for any sloppy play. You just have to stay tough and understand that we have to play better.”

Andre Ingram scored 24 points for American (7-4), which played for the first time in two weeks.

The layoffs probably influenced the teams’ early mutual sloppiness. The first half was littered with mistakes, and neither team could open up a lead because of their propensity for errors.

“We just have to get better. I’m not really satisfied with this performance,” freshman guard Greivis Vasquez said. “I try to get better every time, and I know we won and I know it’s good and we’re going to have a great Christmas. But I think about the ACC games coming up and that’s my main goal.”

The Terps employed a new lineup for the second straight game. Senior forward Ekene Ibekwe returned to his starting spot in place of junior Bambale Osby, while Vasquez again received the nod at point guard over fellow freshman Eric Hayes.

In addition, senior guard Mike Jones, who set a school record with nine 3-pointers in his last game, was lifted in favor of senior Parrish Brown after arriving late to a shootaround yesterday morning.

The lineup hardly mattered though, as both sides were fumbling easy passes. After an especially egregious sequence where the Terps compiled 10 turnovers in the first 15 minutes, Williams shouted “What are you doing?” a request easily heard and no doubt shared by patrons on the side of the court opposite the Maryland bench.

Maryland finally emerged from its morass of miscues to cash in on the Eagles’ turnovers. The Terps took the lead for good when Strawberry made two free throws with 3:41 left in the first half after an American turnover. Senior center Will Bowers then made a close-range jumper after the Eagles gave it away again.

American fumbled the ball away on a third straight possession, and Strawberry hit a 3-pointer to increase Maryland’s lead to 33-27. After the Eagles were called for offensive goaltending, Bowers made a jumper from the free throw line. Strawberry then batted a pass to set up a Gist layup for a 37-29 advantage.

American closed to within 37-31 by halftime, but the Terps opened the second half on a 13-2 run — spurred by a Jones 3-pointer, his only shot in the first 35 minutes, and a pair of Strawberry 3-pointers — to blow it open.

“Instead of just playing just to play, we went out and played our game the way we’ve been playing,” Strawberry said. “I think it was the break a little bit because we were a little off at first. We were a little slower, but we picked it up and got back into rhythm in the second half.”

However the Terps permitted the Eagles to linger for the rest of the game. American pulled within 61-50 with less than five minutes left, but Jones hit his second 3-pointer moments later to quell any chance of a single-digit scare.

Maryland returns to action with a home game against Mount St. Mary’s on Thursday.

“I don’t measure the team that much by this game because of the timing of the game,” Williams said. “The next couple games will show a little more and then we’ll see where we are as we head into the ACC season. We have work to do, but that’s a good thing at this time of year.”

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