Maryland did just what it had to tonight. The Terapins got ahead of Georgia Tech early, took good percentage shots when the Yellow Jackets made the game close and cruised to an easy 83-74 win in front of 5,061 fans in Alexandria Memorial Coliseum.
Ernest Graham led the Terps with 23 points, followed by Albert King with 18 points and Greg Manning with 17 as Maryland recorded its seventh straight win. The Terrapins are now 9-1 overall and 2-0 in ACC play, both wins coming over the league's new doormat, Tech. The Jackets, struggling in their first year as an ACC team are now 0-4 in the conference, 3-6 in all games.
"I think they're a tough team," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said. "We were ahead most of the game but I never felt like we had a comfortable lead. They played us tough."
Tech played tougher than it had two weeks ago when it quietly went down to a 70-60 defeat at Maryland. Tonight the Yellow Jackets took the open 15-foot jump shot when it was there and kept the game competitive for almost 30 minutes. Brooke Steppe led the hosts with 23 points, Lenny Horton tallied 16 and point guard Kerry O'Brien finished with 14.
But when things got tight, the Terps simply had too much power for Tech. They worked the ball inside to Graham or King consistently and come away with layups or foul shots.
"They're a pretty good team," King said."But I guess you would have to admit that they're missing something since they haven't won an ACC game yet. But they'll get better."
They will have to if they are to win a conference game. Driesell refused to predict whether the Yellow Jackets would win an ACC game this year. "I ain't a prognosticator," he said.
He didn't need to be one tonight to see that his team was going to be successful. Tech led twice in the game, the last time at 11-9 five minutes into the first half. A Graham layup and two free throws by King put Maryland ahead, 13-11, with 14:30 left in the half and Tech never got even again.
The Terps steadily built their lead throughout the first half, reaching nine at 42-33 on a tip in by Taylor Baldwin at the first half buzzer.
"We didn't make our outside shots and we let them get inside most of the night," Tech Coach Dwane Morrison said. "You can't do both those things and beat a team like Maryland."
Not when Maryland shoots 59 percent for the game and wins the rebounding battle, 36-30, even though Buck Williams was limited to 24 minutes by foul problems.
"I was thinking about the referees and when they were going to call another foul instead of about basketball," Williams said. "I'm still trying to get used to playing in the middle. It'll take a while."
"I ain't worried about Buck," Driesell said. "When the time comes, he'll be there, he'll be ready to play."
Maryland really didn't need Williams tonight. The other four starters, with a solid five-point, five-rebound performance from substitute center Taylor Baldwin, were more than enough to handle Tech.
Once in the second half the Yellow Jackets threatened to make this a ball game. After a Williams layup (his only basket of the night) had put the Terps up 53-41 with 16:02 left, Maryland went scoreless for nearly three minutes. During that period Horton made two free throws, John Mann hit a jump shot and Steve Neal tipped in his own miss to cut the margin 53-47 with 13:15 left.
The Terps promptly woke up and scored the next eight points, six of them by Graham who played another solid game, shooting 10 of 18 from the floor and grabbing seven rebounds. He looked shaky only on the foul line, shooting three of eight, including an air ball.
Maryland's run ended any suspense. Tech got the margin down to seven, 79-72, with 1:01 left but that was a full minute after Driesell had cleared his bench.
"Maybe this wasn't our best game but we still won pretty easily," said Morley, who hit every shot he took tonight (two for two from the floor, six for six from the line). "I think that shows that this team is coming together pretty well. Everyone knows their roles."
Saturday, the Terps play at Wake Forest. Next Thursday play at Wake Forest. Next Thursday they visit North Carolina State. After that game they will have an idea of just how well they have come together.