Those who thought Long Island University would be a member of Maryland's early season pushover club were wrong.
The Terrapins lost a 15-point lead and trailed twice in the fourth quarter before scoring the game's last nine points and holding LIU scoreless for the final 3 1/2 minutes to claim an 87-79 victory at Cole Field House last night.
Sophomore forward Herman Veal led Maryland with 18 points and 15 rebounds in his third straight impressive performance.
"I thought it would be close, but not that close," said Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell, wiping his brow in the dressing room.
The game wouldn't have been close if the Terrapins (3-0) had hit more than 58 percent of their foul shots. But Maryland made just nine of 19 shots from the line in the second half and missed the front end of four bonus free throw sets in the final 13 minutes.
"That's the worst we've shot from the free throw line in I don't know how many years," Driesell said. "But our kids hung in there tough at the end when we had a chance to fold. It feels good to win a close one like that."
"This will help get us ready for the (Atlantic Coast Conference) season," said senior guard Reggie Jackson, whose 40-foot basket at the buzzer ended Maryland's pullaway. "I thought we could blow them away when we went up by 15. I didn't expect them to come all the way back. But it's good to get pressure like this in the early season."
Maryland led by as many as 15 points twice in the first half, and took a 48-39 lead into the locker room at halftime. But several signs pointed to a chance for the Blackbirds (1-1) to make the game competitive. While outrebounding shorter LIU, 25-14, in the first half (LIU's tallest player last night was 6-foot-7, and it doesn't have a center), Maryland took the same number of shots as Long Island.
LIU forward Riley Clarida, who played his freshman year at George Mason, scored a free throw and a layup two minutes into the second half to pull the Blackbirds within 52-48. Eric Short, a 6-4 forward, hit an 18-footer, cutting Maryland's lead to 52-50, and the game was on.
Forward Russell Davis gave LIU its first lead, 68-67, with 8:24 to play. After Veal's two free throws, the Blackbirds took their final lead, 70-69, as 5-9 guard Earl Fuller got two of his 17 points on a 24-foot, fadeaway jumper.
Maryland took a 77-73 lead on Adrian Branch's short jumper. But the Blackbirds tied it at 79 on Short's basket with 3:33 remaining. That was LIU's last score.
Freshman Steve Adkins scored a five-foot jumper to give Maryland the lead for good, 81-79. Veal, after LIU's Russell Davis missed a free throw and committed a foul, made two free throws. On the Blackbirds' last gasp, Adkins blocked Fuller's long jump shot attempt and grabbed the rebound, allowing Maryland to remain undefeated.