- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

The final warmup was a breather.

The No.21 Maryland Terrapins readied for the coming ACC grind by beating Hampton 108-58 last night before 17,468 at Comcast Center. The Terps took an early 20-4 lead for the second straight game and withstood one Pirates run to gain their fourth straight victory.

The Terps (8-3) are largely through their non-conference games, with only Loyola (Feb.2) remaining. Maryland plays host to Florida State on Saturday as conference play resumes.

"This is the kind of momentum we want going into the ACC," guard Drew Nicholas said.

Said center Ryan Randle: "This game got everybody's blood pumping."

Randle hit his first three shots for a team-record 16 straight over three games, eclipsing Greg Manning's 1981 mark of 15. Randle's 16 points and 12 rebounds were his third double-double this season.

However, he was hardly alone. Guard Steve Blake emerged from a recent slump that included only two points against Wagner last Saturday to sink two early 3-pointers and score 13 points. Blake's eight assists moved him one ahead of Pooh Richardson's 833 for 18th in NCAA career assists. Forward Jamar Smith and Nicholas each scored 17.

The Terps even recovered from an early rebounding slump to grab eight straight late in the first half. They managed a 46-43 rebounding edge after trailing on the boards 16-7 early.

Maryland opened with a 12-0 run that included three straight electrifying fastbreak dunks as the Pirates failed to solve the Terps' quickness. Maryland scored 37 points off turnovers no matter its lineup. With Blake in sync outside and Randle grabbing key rebounds, they simply rattled the visitors in reaching 100 points for the 100th time in school history.

Maryland played its starters longer than in many early-season games, seeking some lasting chemistry for expected close conference games. However, the bench continued to prove deep. Though forward Tahj Holden was hampered by three first-half fouls, guard John Gilchrist and Smith provided quality minutes. Guard Calvin McCall returned after missing two games with a sprained ankle. Maryland has steadily tried different combinations of older and younger players, with the latter group steadily gaining time.

"We are maturing a little bit and learning what it takes for us to play well," coach Gary Williams said. "We shot well, We passed well. Our defense was really good at times."

The Terps' outside game flowed better than in recent outings, though Maryland regularly worked the extra pass trying to set up Randle. He carried the Terps on occasion, especially during a physical second-half stretch with six straight points.

Maryland soon followed its 12-0 start with a 9-0 run for a 24-4 lead. Hampton later rallied with 10 unanswered points to close within 26-16 with 10:05 remaining. The Terps then sandwiched 7-0 and 6-0 runs around a Pirates layup for a 41-20 lead with 4:51. The Terps steadily increased the pace, scoring eight of their final 11 points on layups for a 54-31 halftime lead.

The Terps quieted any Hampton hopes of a second-half comeback with an opening 6-0 run on a Nicholas steal, Blake's 15-footer and a dunk by forward Travis Garrison for a 60-31 lead. It was typical of the offensive diversity that let the Terps handle the Pirates (6-4).

Still, the game grew testy after a 7-0 Hampton run cut Maryland's lead to 62-40 with 15:45 remaining. Hampton guard Jeff Granger and Blake scuffled briefly under the Hampton basket before being separated, with both players drawing technicals. Maryland then went to Randle for six points and soon led 73-42 to end any drama.

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