The perspective of Maryland's 95-84 basketball victory over Cleveland State in Cole Field House last night depends on whether one is an optimist or a pessimist.
For the positive thinkers, Maryland (4-1) came out against an unheralded opponent and turned the visitors' kamikaze tactics of zone presses and half-court traps into 75 percent shooting and a 23-point lead two minutes into the second half.
They will note that Maryland made two-thirds of its shots all told, that Adrian Branch (23 points), Keith Gatlin (17 points, seven assists) and Len Bias (14 points, 12 rebounds) had good numbers; that centers Derrick Lewis and Terry Long combined for 11 points, five rebounds and seven blocked shots, and that the Terrapins' substitutes (led by Speedy Jones' 12 points) outscored their Cleveland State counterparts, 37-17.
But the negative thinkers will point to the careless second-half turnovers and impatient offense that let the Vikings (3-1) get back into the game, as close as eight points twice. The pessimists will note the Terrapins again squandered much of a big lead and were again outrebounded.
"We had a 20-point lead and we got lackadaisical," Gatlin said. "It'll come with maturity when the guys understand we have to play 40 minutes of hard basketball to win."
Coach Lefty Driesell was more succinct: "We made some awful careless mistakes just getting the ball inbounds in the second half. The first half we played great, the second half we stunk."
Cleveland State, relatively new to Division I and coached by former Boston College assistant Kevin Mackey, came in with a better team than reputation. Its front line of Clinton Ransey (18 points), Clinton Smith (17) and 6-foot-9 freshman center Gene Miles (14) proved it could play at this level.
Averaging 102 points per game, Cleveland wanted to create the fastest-paced game it could, although Maryland usually feasts on such strategy. But the Vikings were playing a style in which they had to be the aggressor, and couldn't bring it off until the second half. Maryland did all the attacking in the first half.
In taking a 57-38 halftime lead, Maryland scored 19 points directly off breaking the press, 12 on fast breaks following steals or misses and two on offensive rebounds.
"They gambled too much," said Maryland guard Jeff Adkins, who was benched in the second half in favor of Jones. "They put too many guys up front, and we threw the ball over it, creating a lot of three-on-one situations."
The key part of the half came after Cleveland State got two of its four first-half turnovers off the press and closed to 37-31. Maryland ran off the next 12 points in an open-court game that resulted in mismatches, such as 5-7 1/2 Shawn Hood trying to guard 6-8 Branch.
While Adkins was sitting, his replacements, JuCo transfer Jones and freshman Wally Lancaster, exploited Cleveland's decision to ignore them defensively. In the first half, neither missed a shot, Jones making four and Lancaster three.
Driesell rewarded Jones by starting him in the second half. It paid off immediately, when Jones made a basket and the Terrapins increased their lead to 61-38.
Then, Maryland had a letdown, getting careless and impatient. The Terrapins committed 12 of their 22 turnovers after building the big lead, and Branch had six of them.
With Eric Mudd scoring six of his 10 points, the Vikings ran off eight in a row to make it 63-48. Then, with Ransey, younger brother of the New Jersey Nets' Kelvin Ransey, and Smith taking over, the Vikings crept within eight points twice, the last at 80-72 with 6:26 to play.
Bias' tip-in and Branch's breakaway dunk made it 84-72.