Terps' Defense Struggles in Close Call

By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 2, 2006

A day before his team's first exhibition game, Maryland Coach Gary Williams said he looked forward to gauging his team's defensive improvement.

He got his answer quickly as the Terrapins fought to hold off California (Pa.), 79-78, last night at half-full Comcast Center.

With Maryland ahead 76-75, Terrapins freshman guard Eric Hayes made two free throws with four seconds left to help the Terrapins hang on.

The Division II Vulcans shot 50 percent from the field and finished shooting 43.3 percent from beyond the arc, an ominous sign for a Terrapins team that placed defensive improvement high on its offseason priority list.

"We didn't play good defense on the perimeter and we've been talking about that since last spring," Williams said. "Maybe the message gets through a little bit after tonight."

California played most of the second half trailing by single digits, mostly because of its play from the outside.

"It was the same stuff that killed us in the past -- penetrating, three-point shooting," Maryland senior guard D.J. Strawberry said. "We've been doing a pretty good job of that in practice, helping and getting back to the three-point shooter. Tonight, we got exposed on the defensive end. We didn't play hard enough flying at shooters, going up with hands up."

Still, Maryland managed to endure behind strong play from three newcomers.

Freshman forward Landon Milbourne scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed six rebounds in 18 minutes as a reserve. Hayes started and played 25 minutes at point guard, with nine assists in addition to his two big free throws.

Junior forward Bambale Osby, a junior college transfer, scored 11 points. Fans serenaded Osby during his Terrapins debut by chanting "Boom," a nickname given to him by his teammates, each time he entered the game. Osby added three rebounds and provided a physical presence under the basket.

Meantime, California's Kelvin Green scored a game-high 22 points, leading four Vulcans who scored in double digits.

The Terps took their first lead, 25-23, with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the first half when Hayes nailed a three-pointer. Maryland never relinquished the lead, but never pulled away. The Vulcans cut the Terps lead to 71-70 with 2 minutes 33 seconds left, but Milbourne made a three-pointer with 2:17 left to push the lead to four.

"We didn't play up to our capability, but it's still early and we still have a lot of time to fix it before our first game," Strawberry said. "We know we've got to play better on the defensive end."

· GEO. MASON 84, MARYMOUNT 48: Folarin Campbell scored a game-high 21 points, and Will Thomas chipped in with 11 points and 14 rebounds in the host Patriots' exhibition game. George Mason shot 58 percent from the floor as it jumped out to a 45-19 halftime lead.

· GW 81, AUGUSTA STATE 72: Maureece Rice scored 15 points to lead five double-digit scorers for the host Colonials in an exhibition game. Rice also had seven assists.

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