- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bucknell guard Justin Castleberry had the look of a man hoping maybe - just maybe - to zip past midcourt and perhaps snap his team out of its brick-or-turnover pattern.

Maryland’s Cliff Tucker was waiting and would have none of it, slickly stripping Castleberry and romping downcourt for an easy basket.

It was impressive enough that Tucker so deftly lifted the Terrapins to a 16-point lead just before halftime. Perhaps inadvertently, he might have defined what could carry Maryland in the early portion of the season.

From the looks of the opener’s meaningful moments, it will be a defense that forced 20 turnovers.

While Maryland muddled its way through a sluggish shooting night, it still coasted to an 81-52 victory Friday night at Comcast Center. Junior Landon Milbourne scored 16 points.

“I thought both teams were a little nervous, but I thought we made some really good plays defensively where we got some stops because we weren’t scoring,” said coach Gary Williams, who improved to 20-0 in home openers at Maryland. “You’re going to have games where you don’t shoot the ball well, and if your defense is good enough, you can hang in there until you get it going.”

Williams is ever-fond of pointing out that offense sometimes comes slowly while defense can be good immediately. With more than a little help from the discombobulated Bison, Maryland’s defensive effort appeared more polished than its work at the other end.

Bucknell had almost as many turnovers (14) as points (17) in the first 20 minutes, an indication both of the Bison’s inability to run their offense successfully and a propensity to take poor shots.

Sure enough, Maryland held Bucknell to 25 percent (7-for-28) from the floor in the first half and just 31.7 percent for the game. That provided plenty of cushion for Maryland to offset a cold start. The Terps missed their first eight shots and nursed a 9-5 advantage after 10 minutes, then rattled off a 10-0 run and were never seriously challenged again.

“The points were tough, and we were kind of nervous out there tonight,” said guard Adrian Bowie, who finished with 12 points. “[Since it’s] the first game, we had a little jitterbugs, so getting the fast break on defense really helped a lot.”

Especially when answers from the Terps’ untested big men don’t seem to be forthcoming.

It was difficult to gauge what to anticipate from the Terps (1-0), what with their offseason flux and inexperience in the frontcourt. While the tumult of players coming and going in the spring is history that won’t change, Maryland’s forwards will remain the focus of attention for some time.

Little could be gleaned from one night. Sophomore Braxton Dupree occasionally was effective in the first half, then was banished to the bench for a spell less than a minute after halftime. Senior Dave Neal didn’t check in until just before the break, but in the second half he was probably the Terps’ best big.

Jerome Burney and Jin Soo Kim had relatively quiet nights, and Dino Gregory, the first big off the bench, was a reliable rebounder. All of them played at least 10 minutes; none logged more than 16 minutes or six points.

Whoever can emerge from that scrum will be determined eventually, one way or another. Yet despite the lingering uncertainty and the not-so-sharp night, the Terps had no intention of offering apologies for producing a 29-point rout when they weren’t at their best.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well today and we scored 81 points,” guard Greivis Vasquez said. “That should tell you something.”

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