- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams got a look at many new faces in his team’s season-opening rout of American on Saturday.

He also saw a staple of many of his first 14 Terrapins teams: a suffocating defense.

The Terrapins (1-0) held AU to eight points in the first half and limited the Eagles to 27.4 percent shooting for the game as they coasted to the 79-48 victory. It could become a defining characteristic for the youthful team this season, which continues tonight against George Mason (1-0) at Comcast Center.

“Our defense has won games for us. The big games you play, when you don’t score well you still can win when you play good defense,” Williams said. “We’ve really bought into that for a while, so hopefully we continue to play good defense here. That should be consistent. It’s not like shooting that can come and go. You should be able to play defense. But it’s hard to learn. You can make mistakes defensively just like you can offensively.”

Those miscues were minimized against AU; Maryland blocked nine shots and scored 34 points off 23 turnovers in the blowout. Yet the Terps only outrebounded the Eagles by seven.

“With the size advantage I thought we should dominate the glass more against American, but we didn’t,” Williams said. “So maybe we’re not that good of a rebounding team. We weren’t that night, so we get another test against Mason because they go after it pretty well.”

Maryland has won all five meetings between the programs, though the last two games have been dicey for the Terps. In December 1999, Maryland escaped with a 69-66 victory at Cole Field House. Fifteen months later, the Terps overcame a sloppy performance to eke out an 83-80 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament en route to the first of two consecutive trips to the Final Four.

However, Williams isn’t reminding his players — none of whom have played against the Patriots — about past meetings between the crosstown rivals.

“I don’t go into detail about the history of this series,” Williams said. “Our players don’t want to hear that. They just know they’re playing George Mason [tonight], and we know they’ll be ready to play and that they’re a veteran team. They won’t be intimidated coming in here.”

Like the Terps, George Mason is a quick team that started four guards in its season opener. Junior Terry Reynolds, a transfer from Toledo, had 13 points and 14 assists as the Patriots defeated Morehead State 95-82 on Friday. Sophomore Lamar Butler, who missed last season with a hip flexor injury, scored 18 points and was 5-for-9 from 3-point range.

The Patriots possess some size. Forward Jai Lewis came off the bench to record a double-double against Morehead State, while 6-foot-9 forward Kevin Mickens had five rebounds in 16 minutes of work.

Still, Mason will receive a far sterner test tonight.

“Our team has high aspirations, and one of the best ways to see where you are as a team is to play a top-level opponent like Maryland,” said George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, who is going for his 300th career victory tonight. “We’re challenging for a conference championship, and to play tough road games like this now will help us later during our conference schedule, and it will help us should we make the NCAA tournament.”

• Staff writer Matt Remsberg contributed to this report.

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