With leading scorer Adrian Branch out with an injured knee, the Maryland Terrapins passed the ball back and forth to each other last night, waiting for someone to shoot. Too many times, they produced a turnover before a shot and the result was a 64-56 loss to St. Joseph's before nearly 9,850 in Cole Field House.
St. Joseph's broke open a close game with five minutes to go by scoring four layups in five possessions, with the Terrapins helping by playing poor defense.
Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell was irate after the loss.
"Tomorrow may be the hardest practice the players have had in the 14 years I've been here," he said.
Anyone who doubted Branch's importance to Maryland's offense should be convinced after this game. His 23 points per game and creative penetration were sorely missed. Branch, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, banged the knee Monday in practice and said he was in too much pain to play.
Center Ben Coleman led Maryland (2-2) with 17 points and guard Steve Rivers had 14. But the Terrapins clearly had their problems on offense.
"We were tentative," said forward Herman Veal. "There was a lot of indecision. There was no continuity on offense at all. I wasn't sure how much we would miss Adrian. I thought we could win without him tonight."
When asked how much Branch's absence hurt Maryland, Driesell said firmly, "We are not a one-man team."
Maryland trailed, 31-25, early in the second half but tied at 33 on Coleman's hook and moved ahead on a layup by Rivers. After the game was tied at 38, St Joseph's (1-1) scored 11 of the next 13 points for a 49-40 lead with five minutes left. Four of five field goals were layups.
The St. Joseph's players said their job was much easier with Branch on the bench. He has damaged cartilage in his left knee that may keep him out for another two weeks.
"All we talked about was Adrian, Adrian, Adrian," said Hawks center Tony Costner, who had 17 points and seven rebounds. "We knew we had to stop Adrian and Ben Coleman, so without Adrian, half our task was already completed."
Whenever Maryland's offense did work, the defense didn't.
The Hawks shot only 44 percent, but it appeared two-thirds of their 21 baskets came on layups. Three straight times late in the game, after Maryland scored, St. Joseph's countered with a long inbounds pass and layup.
"We played that inbounds play stupid," Driesell said. "You get burned on that maybe once, but not three or four times."
Bob Lojewski, a forward who missed three dunks, led the Hawks with 19 points. Of his seven field goals, six were layups.
"They broke us to death," Veal said. "Too many easy layups."
Meanwhile, Maryland's forwards contributed almost nothing. mark Fothergill, after one of his best games Saturday at Canisius, took no shots, no free throws and got no rebounds in 19 minutes as a starter.
Freshman Len Bias made two of seven shots; Pete Holbert missed all four of his shots. Maryland missed seven of 15 free throws, several coming on the front end of one-and-one situations late in the game.