Buck Williams could not have picked a better night to make his season debut.
The 6-foot-8 sopohomore, who broke the ring finger on his shooting hand last month, wasted little time returning to the intimidating ways that earned him the Atlantic Coast Conference rebounding crown and league rookie of the year honors last season. He scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help Maryland frolic its way to a 115-76 triumph over flustered Miami of Ohio in a semifinal game of the Maryland Invitational Tournament at Cole Field House before 2,623 fans.
Temple played just well enough to turn back Harvard 85-73, in the other semifinal.
Maryland (7-1) will meet Temple (6-2) in the championship game tonight at 9 o'clock. Harvard (4-4) plays Miami of Ohio (1-8) in the consolation contest at 7.
Maryland had no problems with the smaller Redskins. Before Williams made his entrance, Al King, Ernest Graham and Dutch Morley had led the Terps to a quick lead. Consecutive baskets by Morley, Greg Manning and King had Maryland on top, 18-11, with TERPS, From D1> just over 13 minutes left in the first half.
The Terps went on to shoot 70 percent from the field for the game (50 of 71) and easily outrebounded Miami, 43-33. Williams scored 10 of his points and snared three rebounds in his brief appearance in the first half.
"When the game first started, I wasn't really into it," said Williams. "As the game progressed, I forgot about my finger. It's healed, but I don't want to rush things. I wasn't concerned about shooting too much. I just concentrated on my rebounding and my passing."
Williams was in the game when the Redskins, after falling behind 33-19, made an effort to catch up. Redskin 6-5 guard Rick Goins, a taller lookalike to Seattle Supersonic Coach Lenny Wilkins, scored eight of his game-high 25 points in a five minute span to help his team pull to within five points, 37-32, with 4:54 left before intermission.
But Williams started an 18-8 Terp spurt with a short jumper in the key, scared the daylights out of two Redskins with a ferocious dunk, then whipped a perfect outlet pass to Greg Manning, who fed Ernest Graham for a climactic running one-handed dunk. The Terps strolled to the locker room with a 55-40 lead at the half.
Maryland hit 26 of 36 field-goal attempts in the first 20 minutes. What disturbed the Redskin coaching staff was the fact that 18 of the 26 goals were the layup, dunk, or spittin' distance variety.
"If we shoot like that every night, we'll be tough to beat," said Terp point guard Dutch Morley, who made all six of his attempts from the floor. "Our running game was going and they tried to run with us. Everyone got in the flow and we just hit our shots. Plus, Buck is back and psychologically, you don't mind putting the ball up. Taylor (Baldwin) has done a good job but Buck is another Big asset for us."
Terp Coach Lefty Driesell was pleased with his team's win, heaping praise upon everyone who played.
"Overall, I thought we played very well," said Driesell. "It's nice to have Buck back out there. He's a tremendous athlete, so anything he does doesn't surprise me. I was a little surprised he shot so well. He didn't look like he favored his hand at all. He dunked one with his right hand so he couldn't have been thinking about it."
Graham, one of six Terps in double figures, practiced NBA-style three-point goals in the opening minutes of the second half. The 6-foot-7 forward parked in the deep corner and bombed home three straight. Morley hit a basket, Williams added a two-hand dunk, Manning converted two Redskin turnovers into breakaways and King capped a 15-0 blitz with a 12-footer to push Maryland out to a commanding 74-44 lead with 13:33 left to play.
After that basket, it was pad-the-scoring and team-statistic time. All Maryland's players scored. Reserve center David Henderson got the honor of turning the scoreboard to the century mark, sinking his only point from the free-throw line to give his team a 100-64 advantage.
King led all scorers with 18 points, Graham had 17, Manning and Reggie Jackson, playing as well as he has all year, each had 16, Williams 15 and Morley 12.
"I'm not downgrading Miami, but this was a good game for me to come back," said Williams. "I played with intensity and worked hard. I think Miami played as hard as they could."