- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

On its surface, Maryland swingman Cliff Tucker’s steal and uncontested layup in the first half of last night’s rout of Savannah State was nothing out of the ordinary.

An easy basket against an undermanned Division I independent whose schedule reads more like a barnstorming team than a major college program should not stand out at Comcast Center.

Yet for this year’s Terrapins, it was a welcome change from an oft-difficult first two months.

Tucker’s basket provided two of 33 points off turnovers for Maryland, which encountered marginal resistance on its way to a 75-48 victory and a modest two-game winning streak.

“You have to find a way to score,” coach Gary Williams said. “I think our defense can be good enough where we can force some points off turnovers. If that’s got to be a part of our game, that’s the way it is.”

James Gist, Bambale Osby and Greivis Vasquez each scored 13 points, and Eric Hayes added 12 points for the balanced Terps (8-6).

There were no hints of the early game indifference that haunted Maryland throughout a three-game December home skid against Boston College, Ohio and American. Although the Tigers (7-12) opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, the Terps ripped off the next 15 points.

Tucker capped the stretch with his easy basket, a commodity tough to come by early this season for the Terps. Typically a team capable of generating enough transition baskets to make up for sloppy shooting or some other trouble, Maryland’s offense was frequently rendered inert in its first dozen games.

Savannah State was not capable of pulling off such a feat, mainly because it could not maintain possession. The Tigers committed 24 turnovers, including 14 in the first half.

“It’s always easier if you can score a lot of points off your defense instead of scoring points out of the regular offense all the time,” Tucker said. “They’re a team that presses a lot, so we knew we could break the press and score a lot in our transition.”

As a result, the Terps’ offense appeared far more potent than it has for much of the season, and it would have been that way regardless of the starting lineup Williams deployed.

Mainstays Hayes, Vasquez and Gist were joined by Osby and Landon Milbourne at the start. Osby had re-entered the lineup in Friday’s victory over Delaware, while Milbourne returned to his starting spot after a one-game hiatus.

It quickly evolved into a night for tinkering. Ten Terps appeared before halftime, and one of the night’s most dazzling plays was authored by freshman Adrian Bowie, who made a reverse layup shortly before halftime to make it 40-19 at the break.

Any thought of a late collapse — one of the few traits the Terps have not seemed vulnerable to this season — was soon extinguished when the Terps rattled off a 13-2 run to open the second half.

“These past two wins are good for the young guys,” Gist said. “They can feel that we’re actually working hard and doing something. It’s nothing compared to the ACC, so we have to keep pushing.”

Conference play does not recommence for another week, but the Terps still should receive a solid test in their next two games, a trip to Charlotte (8-4) on Saturday and a visit from Holy Cross (8-3).

“We’re getting better,” Williams said. “There’s no doubt about it, and we’re working hard toward that. We’ll see where that takes us. They’re all tough from here on out, and we’ll see what we can do.”

Terps report

Last night at Comcast Center

BY THE NUMBERS

15-122Record for Savannah State against Division I opponents since moving up to Division I in 2002. The Tigers, who failed to crack 60 points for the 10th time in 15 games against Division I teams this year, have not had a winning season since 1985-86.

40 First-half points for Maryland, matching a season high set Friday against Delaware.

PLAY OF THE GAME

 The Terps pushed their lead to 20 for the first time with 7:49 remaining in the first half when forward James Gist slipped a no-look pass across the high post to guard Greivis Vasquez. The sophomore easily made a layup as he was fouled, then made the free throw after a media timeout to bump it to 28-7.

Patrick Stevens

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