When Maryland's Lefty Driesell remembers the night he won his 400th game as a college basketball coach, he may wince a little.
Because when he thinks of last night's 86-64 victory over Navy in front of 14,200 in Cole Field House, he is going to think about his team's seemingly endless stream of mistakes and its poor shot selection that allowed an out-classed Navy team to hang close for almost the entire evening.
The outcome of the game, the season opener for both teams, was never really in any doubt -- Navy was never closer than eight points after the game's first 10 minutes -- but the Terps never got their game in gear.
In fact, with 12 minutes left, the Terps led by only 10 as the Mids, making their debut under Coach Paul Evans, played tenacious defense, broke the Maryland press most of the night and refused to be intimidated by their fourth-ranked opponents. If the two teams had been anywhere near comparable in talent, this might have been a contest.
"It was just one of those nights," said Maryland guard Greg Manning whose three-for-10 shooting had Albert King feeling his forehead for signs of fever afterward. "I guess it's better to play like this now than later."
The Terps finally blew the Mids away with a 31-14 spurt that turned a 47-37 lead into a 78-51 margin with 3:04 left. The key man in the stretch was Buck Williams, who overpowered everyone in sight, finishing with 27 points (matching his career high) and 18 rebounds. King had a quiet eight-for-12, 18-point night and Ernest Graham scored 17. Charles Pittman and Pete Holbert looked good in their Maryland debuts, getting six points apiece. Holbert, scored his in just six minutes of play. John Geshay led Navy with 12 points.
I thought our zone did a good job on them for about the first 30 minutes," said Evans. "They can be as good as anybody, I think. They've got three super players and a good supporting cast. I'm not down on our bunch at all. I think we're executing pretty well."
The Terps were guilty of trying too hard most of the night -- overpassing and shooting too soon.
"I don't know, maybe we were nervous it being the first night," Driesell said. "Some things disappointed me out there, but this is the most we've beaten Navy by since I've been here so it can't be all bad. Once we went inside, we were okay. Until then we were shooting outside too much."
King said it best: "Navy is a tough team to break away from because of their style. They did a good job controlling us, keeping us away from the break. But we won. This is a good one to get under our beslts."
That was the general sentiment at the end. Considering the way the night began, the Terps had reason to feel relieved with the final margin.
The beginning was hardly an auspicious one for a team expected to challenge for a spot in the NCAA final four in March.
The Terps play was sloppy in the early going, as they threw bad passes, took poor shots and made the smaller, hustling Mids appear capable of playing up to Maryland's level.
Navy was still hanging tough, trailing, 15-13, eight minutes into the game when an obvious mental error helped turn the game into the rout it was supposed to be.
A Williams turnaround jumper in the lane had extended Maryland's lead to 17-13 before a TV timeout. After the break, the Mids broke their huddle, inbounded and went into their half-court defense.
They looked good. There was a reason -- six men were on the court wearing black uniforms. Perhaps Evans thought he was entitled to an advantage, for having to make your debut against a top 10 team is no easy task.
The officials, once they noticed the infraction, called the required technical on the Mids, which Manning converted. Williams then hit another short-jumper off the inbounds pass.
That was followed by a Navy turnover, a Dutch Morley jumper, an offensive foul on Navy's Geshay, a Williams follow up shot and a Manning steal and layup. With the Tereps ahead, 26-13, it was time to start predicting the final margin. Navy never got any closer the rest of the half and Maryland finished the half with a 42-27 lead.