CHARLOTTESVILLE, JAN. 20 -- The Maryland basketball team has improved tremendously over the past year, but it is not so far along that it looks comfortable as a favorite.

Smaller and spunkier Virginia defeated the taller but less enthusiastic Terrapins, 84-72, tonight in front of a crowd of 8,100 at University Hall.

Virginia, which raised its record to 9-8 and to 2-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, took the lead for good with 10 minutes left in the first half.

The Cavaliers, who got a game-high 30 points from Mel Kennedy and 28 from John Johnson, led, 34-25, at halftime and pushed their lead to 23 points with less than five minutes gone in the second half. Maryland, using mainly three-point shots, was able to cut the lead to eight, but could get no closer.

"I think it's obvious that our guys really wanted to play tonight," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "For the most part, we played excellent basketball at both ends."

The Terrapins, who fell to 10-5 and 3-2, were coming off an exciting, 72-69 upset victory at Duke, but, except for a few flashes, they showed none of the zip or cohesiveness they displayed in Durham.

"When we're favored to win, we seem to take it for granted," said Maryland point guard Rudy Archer, who added that he doesn't have much time to read newspapers. "When we're underdogs, we play harder."

The Cavaliers played hard all the way, and Kennedy and Johnson were splendid.

Kennedy, who is the only Virginia front-court starter with much experience, hit 10 of 18 shots from the field, including two of four from three-point range, and eight of nine free throws for a career-high 30 points.

Maryland played man-to-man defense most of the game and 6-foot-7 Derrick Lewis was assigned to guard the 6-5 Kennedy, who made up the two-inch height deficit with 30 extra pounds.

Knowing Lewis is an excellent shot blocker, Kennedy may have set a record for head fakes in a game. And once Lewis realized the head fake was coming, he tried to just stand tall with his arms up. Then Kennedy would just go over him.

"It's his quickness; sort of an awkward game," Johnson said of Kennedy. "It's hard to time Mel's shot. Mel got them into the air and kept them off balance."

Johnson, who also set a career high with his 28 points, scored in a variety of ways himself. With Archer on him at the start, Johnson drove inside -- sometimes all the way, sometimes pulling up. Either way, he hit 11 of 15 shots from the floor (one for one from three-point range) and made five of seven free throws.

"John Johnson is a great player," said Archer, who struggled with his shot. He was zero for five in the first half and two for 12 for the night. "He's one of the best guards in the league. He took control of the game and did a great job."

Steve Hood, who would lead Maryland with 19 points, scored first as the Terrapins built a 6-0 lead. But it was in the initial two minutes that the Terrapins looked their best.

"We were lackadaisical defensively," said Maryland Coach Bob Wade. "And for the duration, I don't think we played well."

The Cavaliers came right back. They didn't get a lot of scoring from anybody other than Kennedy and Johnson, but they got enough. Kenny Turner (six points) scored and Bill Batts (10) scored as the Cavaliers tied the game at 8.

The teams traded baskets for a couple of minutes and Hood's three-pointer gave Maryland its last lead, 15-14, with 10:40 left.

But Richard Morgan responded with a three-pointer of his own to begin a 20-7 run for Virginia that would leave the Cavaliers with a 34-22 lead with 1:15 to go in the half.

The Cavaliers started a front line with a 6-8 center and forwards that were 6-5 and 6-6. The Terrapins started a front line of 6-10, 6-9 and 6-7. One might have thought Maryland would try to use the height advantage more than it did. For much of the first half, freshman center Brian Williams was out on a wing.

"It was the same format that we used against Duke, to isolate Derrick inside," Wade said. "Then they sagged and we were reluctant to take the shots from the perimeter."

Although Lewis had nine first-half shots, Williams (10 points for the game) had just five and Tony Massenburg (five points for the game) had one.

After a 16-2 run, the Cavaliers had a 50-27 lead with 15:28 left.

The Terrapins, who entered the game hitting 39.6 percent of their three-point shots, used the long ball to get back in the game.

Hood hit two in a row and, after Johnson responded with one, Archer and Lewis canned three-pointers to cut the Virginia lead to 53-39 with 12:46 left.

Later, Hood hit another of his five three-pointers and Teyon McCoy hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 61-53. But the Cavaliers responded and pushed the lead back to 75-58 with 3:28 left.

"Our biggest problem this year is that we have not been consistent on offense," Holland said. "But tonight we had very few stretches where we didn't put points on the board."

The Terrapins hit four more three-pointers in the last 3:15 but they could get only as close as 80-72 with 47 seconds remaining.

"I don't like to live by the three-point shot," said Wade, whose team made 14 of 27 of them, "because you can die by it. That was evident tonight."

"They were making a lot of three-pointers," said Johnson. "But we held our head high. We had come too far in this game to let it slip away."

Clemson 76, Furman 65:

Jerry Pryor scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds as Clemson, at home, pulled away in the final minutes to gain a 76-65 non-conference victory over Furman.

Clemson (10-5) held an eight-point lead at the half, 35-27. But Furman cut the deficit to 42-40 in the first four minutes of the second half and proceeded to stay close the rest of the way.

The Tigers, however, never lost the lead and led, 61-58, with 5:42 to play. Clemson outscored the Paladins, 15-7, down the stretch.

The loss dropped Furman's record to 10-4.

Elden Campbell added 11 points and seven rebounds for Clemson while Grayson Marshall and Tim Kincaid had 10 each. Marshall also had four assists to pull within four of breaking the Atlantic Coast Conference career record.

Furman was led by David Brown with 18 points. John Castile finished with 12, Shawn Reid with 11 and Gary Churchill with 10. Castile also had nine rebounds.