- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

Is a Bear trap awaiting Maryland?

With the No. 13 Terrapins (1-0) possibly facing three ranked opponents in 10 days beginning Friday against No.25 Memphis, it might seem natural for Maryland to overlook the Mercer Bears (1-0) tonight at Comcast Center.

Mercer guard James Odom, second in the nation in 3-point percentage last season, will look to shoot holes in Maryland’s perimeter defense and help the team from Macon, Ga., put early pressure on the Terps.

“You can’t look forward to Memphis and Wisconsin [on Nov. 30],” guard D.J. Strawberry said. “We’ll definitely be up for those games because they’re on national TV. You have to play with as much intensity [against Mercer] as Memphis and Wisconsin. Don’t play to a lower opponent’s level. Play to our level.”

Mercer represents the final tuneup before a taxing nonconference schedule designed to prepare Maryland for the ACC grind. The Terps face Memphis (3-1) in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic in Springfield, Mass., before traveling to No.20 Wisconsin (1-0). Maryland could meet No.10 Michigan State (1-0) in the BB&T; Classic on Dec.5 at MCI Center.

After disposing of Jackson State 93-57 on Friday, Maryland will look to polish its halfcourt offense and pressure defense against Mercer before facing the heavyweights. Coach Gary Williams said players overcame nervousness in the opener but must be more patient against Mercer.

“We picked things up as we went along [against Jackson State], which is good to see,” Williams said. “Defensively, we’re coming along. You can always get better. We showed signs of getting better against Jackson State than we were the first two exhibition games. The intensity level was there for most of that game. We want to sustain that.”

Penetrating the defense for higher-percentage shots is among Williams’ goals against Mercer. The Terps want to avoid rushing the offense with an outside jumper following one or two passes.

“You worry about getting good looks,” Williams said. “Percentage is important from the field but also the type of shots you’re getting. We were way too quick … against Jackson State. We have to have more patience. You get better shots if you’re willing to make one more pass. You get the ball inside or [go to] the free throw line. All that is connected. Hopefully, we learned from that, but you don’t know if you learned until you get into another game.”

The Terps are still narrowing their rotation. Centers Hassan Fofana and Will Bowers are competing to back up forward Ekene Ibekwe. However, they were 0-for-1 shooting with no rebounds in 18 minutes combined.

“We need rebounds and defense,” Williams said. “If we’re going to be the best team we can be, we need at least one of those guys to step up and give us minutes in certain key times of games.”

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