Perhaps it was the holiday season. Perhaps it was the 10-day layoff. Maybe Maryland thought it only needed to show up after realizing 6-foot-8 point guard Walt Williams was taller than any of Lafayette College's players.

That combination plus the Princeton-like patience of the outmanned Leopards kept Maryland off balance until a flurry of free throws and some fine defensive play by Cedric Lewis pushed the Terrapins to a 64-48 triumph before 5,277 yesterday at Cole Field House.

Matt Roe hit his first shot and finished with 26 points, eight of them in the final 3:46 as Maryland (4-3) expanded an eight-point lead to 15 with a minute to play.

"Maybe in the back of our minds, we were thinking about finals {or} the style of play of Lafayette," Roe said. "We missed {15 of 35} free throws and they were patient, taking 30, 35 seconds off the clock before taking a shot. I'm off to a slow start but Coach {Gary Williams} told me if I missed some to keep on shooting."

Excepting Roe, the Terps were uneven offensively. Point guard Walt Williams quickly got in foul trouble and managed only 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 23 minutes before fouling out. Lewis scored only four points but had five rebounds, five blocks and intimidated the Leopards into several misdirected shots.

Lewis "seemed to always be there on defense. Nothing was easy," said Lafayette Coach John Leone. "We had shots open for a minute before he closed in on us.

"They just wore us down. We had cut the lead to eight {49-41} and had an easy layup. Bruce Stankavage put the shot up and it rolled off the rim."

Stankavage's next shot was batted away by Lewis, and Roe converted a fast break to make it 52-41 with 3:20 left.

Maryland got free throws from Roe, Eric Kjome, Garfield Smith, Williams and Mike Thiebault to clinch its ninth consecutive home victory, fifth this season.

"Lafayette made this a tough game for us. We tried to do some things differently because we couldn't do the things we are good at," Coach Williams said. "Roe played a strong game for us. Walt got in foul trouble, Kevin {McLinton} got a finger in his eye and couldn't play the second half and Matt {Downing} had a bad ankle. We were looking for volunteers to play point guard."

Williams certainly couldn't complain about his team's defense. A hustling man-to-man forced the Leopards into rushed shots. Lafayette took only 19 shots in the first half, and once failed to score a basket for nearly six minutes.

But the Terrapins were having problems too, missing open shots and making silly mistakes. After they failed to score on six straight possessions, Roe scored on back-to-back driving layups, Williams hit a three-point shot and Kjome had a pair of free throws and a follow shot to give Maryland a 28-18 lead with slightly less than three minutes to play in the first half.

Lafayette (2-5) cut its deficit to five by halftime and scored the first point after intermission, making it 28-24.

Williams was whistled for his four fourth foul with 18:20 to play. Nevertheless, Maryland slowly began to pad its lead.

"When Walt goes out, that doesn't mean we are not any good," Gary Williams said. "Matt {Roe} won't get nervous when Walt goes out."

Roe sank a free throw and a three-pointer, Smith made a layup and Vince Broadnax had a steal and dunk as the Terrapins moved ahead 40-26. The pesky Leopards hit some outside shots and managed several inside baskets to get within eight. But Roe and Lewis then took control.