Sunday, November 25, 2001

On several occasions yesterday, Maryland players had numerous opportunities to tip in a rebound, but the ball just bounced around the rim and wouldn’t go down. And they’d tip it again. And again.
It was that kind of day for No. 6 Maryland, which had chances to blow out Delaware State but couldn’t put its foe away until the second half of a 77-53 victory. The Terps allowed the plucky Hornets to dictate the pace of the game early, played inconsistently for the first 28 minutes and won’t go into Tuesday’s clash with No. 2 Illinois the way the Terrapins wanted.
“The whole thing this year was to come out and dominate and prove we’re ready to contend for a national championship,” Byron Mouton said. “Right now, we’re not even ready.”
Delaware State (2-1) let it be known it wasn’t just in town for the paycheck when Marty Bailey scored the game’s first basket on a 3-pointer 11 seconds in. The Terps struggled to string together good offensive possessions, had three turnovers in a 43-second span and didn’t build a 10-point lead until less than six minutes remained in the half. All that had coach Gary Williams chomping at the bit, badgering the officials and lacing into his players, things he probably didn’t figure to do until Tuesday.
Hornets coach Greg Jackson had a formula for staying in the game: milk the shot clock, minimize turnovers to take away fast breaks by the Terps, and make Maryland earn every basket. And the plan worked: Three minutes before halftime, Delaware State trailed 30-19. The visitors shot just 22 percent in the first half to the Terps’ 50 percent yet trailed 37-21 because they controlled the tempo and committed only seven turnovers.
“Everyone in here knew we couldn’t match up with Maryland. The kids executed the game plan,” Jackson said. “To play the [No. 6] team in the country and lose by 22, 24 that’s a moral victory for us.”
In his postgame comments, Williams said, “judge for yourself” as to whether Jackson employed the damage control strategy too far into the game and abandoned any chances of winning. “They stuck with [the deliberate play] the whole game, in fact,” Williams said.
Lonny Baxter led Maryland with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Aided by a technical foul on the Hornets’ Sergey Stephanenkov, Maryland opened the second half with a 9-2 run to forge a 46-23 lead. Juan Dixon (13 points) had six points in the burst, and the Terps’ lead didn’t dip under 18 the rest of the way.
Maryland continued to show holes, namely shoddy rebounding and free throw shooting. Delaware State’s tallest starter is 6-foot-7 Antwaun Dent, yet the visitors outrebounded Maryland 24-23 in the first half before the Terps responded in the second with a 30-13 advantage. The difference? “Effort,” Williams said. “We didn’t make the effort to be a good rebounding team; they did.”
Maryland made four of its first five free throw attempts, then went 2-for-8 the rest of the half. They finished 16-for-31, with Chris Wilcox (2-for-7) and Tahj Holden (1-for-4) the primary culprits.

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