Maryland displayed its overall team improvement last night more than at any time this season in putting away its fifth straight victory. The Terrapins excelled in every phase of basketball, got superb play from the reserves and convincingly beat Navy, 98-73, at Cole Field House.

Adrian Branch made 10 of 15 shots and scored a game-high 20 points. Ben Coleman scored 16 and made five of eight shots--going to 13 without a miss over three games before failing on a sky hook in the second half. And Jeff Adkins made four of six shots.

Maryland improved to 12-5. Navy, led by Dick Knar and Cliff Maurer with 14 points each, dropped to 11-6.

"We're playing better," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said. "I don't want to go bragging on them yet, because Old Dominion might come in here and blow us out Wednesday. But we are maturing. We're helping each other out on defense and we're learning each other's habits on offense."

The game had the flavor of an Atlantic Coast Conference game. Navy brought its pep band and a couple of thousand fans from Annapolis.

"This sure didn't feel like the usual nonconference game," Branch said. "The Navy players are in real good physical condition, like all the athletes at those academies."

Three minutes into the second half, it was Branch who helped Maryland pull away. With Navy playing well and training only 47-42, Branch made a 12-footer. Navy guard Rob Romaine followed with two free throws, but Branch countered with a jumper in the lane.

After that, the Maryland defense took over and shut out the Midshipmen for four minutes. Meanwhile, Coleman threw down a powerful dunk and made one free throw, Len Bias made two free throws, Pete Holbert made two technical foul shots (against the Navy bench) and Jeff Baxter got a 19-foot jumper for a 62-44 lead with 13 minutes to play.

"After Branch hit those two shots, they got confidence," Romaine said. "And when they get confidence, with all that athletic ability, it gets like playing schoolyard ball. We were just athletically outmanned."

It was especially impressive that Maryland built and maintained the lead with strong play from several reserves, most notably freshman forwards Ed Farmer and Bias.

Bias scored 10 points and got eight rebounds. Farmer scored eight points and had five rebounds and two steals.

"I think Coach Driesell realizes now that we have some guys who can come in off the bench and play," Farmer said.

Driesell, when asked about his increased use of reserves last night, said it's because "I'm getting more confidence in the bench."

It also helped that Navy, shooting 50 percent for the season, made only 39 percent this game. David Brooks, averaging 17 points per game, missed 10 of 13 shots and was benched by Coach Paul Evans in the second half. Freshman Vernon Butler, the second-leading scorer, missed six of seven shots and Romaine missed five of seven.

"Maryland played as well tonight as they have all season," Evans said. "Some guys who were shooting 35 percent came in and shot the lights out."