Even with Adrian Branch having a superb all-around game, Maryland lacked intensity and struggled again last night in beating Towson State, 66-56, at Cole Field House.
Branch scored 25 points and had six assists. He set up a number of other baskets and free throws with his passing.
But the Terrapins, even with Branch making 11 of 15 from the field, made only 48 percent. They missed eight of 20 free throws and played poorly enough late in the game to let Towson come from 12 points down to within four points with six minutes remaining, making Coach Lefty Driesell go to a spread offense.
Maryland led, 54-50, with 6:10 to play when Maryland called time. Branch, working from the middle of the spread, scored a base-line jumper to make it 56-50, then made two free throws after Towson scored to maintain Maryland's six-point advantage the rest of the game.
"We were going backward at that point," Driesell said. "I wanted to pull Towson out of that zone defense, not just hold the ball. I wanted to get the ball to Adrian in the middle and let him create something."
"We had to do something to stop their momentum," said Maryland guard Jeff Adkins.
If Maryland had such a difficult time against a mediocre team like Towson State (2-5), what will happen on Dec. 23 when Maryland plays host to third-ranked UCLA?
"I'm happy we won, but if we play like this against UCLA, they'll embarrass us again," Driesell said, referring to UCLA's 33-point victory last year. "I've been waiting for this (UCLA) game since last year's game ended. We've got eight days to prepare, but we might need three or four weeks the way we played tonight."
Other than Branch and Veal, who led the team with eight rebounds, the Terrapins just didn't do much.
Center Ben Coleman made four of 19 shots and two of six free throws. Steve Rivers, shooting 66 percent for the season, made three of seven shots. And guard Jeff Adkins made only four of 10 before leaving the game in the closing seconds with a jammed left hand.
Towson could have made this game a lot closer if the Tigers had shot better than 42 percent. Forward Donald Jones was high scorer for the visitors with 17 points and had 10 rebounds. Mark Cooley scored 12 and guard Bruce James had 10. Donald Leslie, Towson's best scoring guard, made only one of eight shots.
Still, as Driesell said, it was all Maryland could do to win.
Maryland was fortunate that Branch, for the second straight game, was in great form.
His two assists gave Maryland a 4-0 lead and he consistently hit an open teammate when the Tigers decided to sag around or double-team him.
"I've been wanting to play a more complete, all-around game," said Branch. He also acknowledged that missing last week's loss to St. Joseph's with an injured left knee may have helped his game.
"It was good to see the team from a different view," said Branch, who usually plays nearly 40 minutes. "I got a chance to study the players, to see them on the floor, where they like to get the ball. I want to pass whenever the situation dictates, like tonight."
Rivers said Branch's passing should help the team immensely.
"Other teams are coming in thinking all they have to do is stop Adrian Branch," Rivers said. "With him playing such an all-around game, it should help open up scoring opportunities for other guys, and we need that."