As Maryland's 12 players filed into their locker room at halftime Tuesday, only one showed a glimmer of emotion. D.J. Strawberry glanced at the scoreboard and screamed. It was true: Maryland was losing to a Division II school nicknamed after a spiked plant.
Strawberry's emotional jump-start in the second half guaranteed that the Chaminade Silverswords would not claim college basketball's upset of the season against the 23rd-ranked Terrapins. Maryland responded to its point guard with a 23-0 run en route to a 98-69 victory in the consolation round of the Maui Invitational.
Maryland Coach Gary Williams wants his players to be more assertive during trying times this season rather than merely relying the coaching staff for motivation. On a team of four seniors, a junior, Strawberry, has fast become the team's most vociferous catalyst.
"He showed a lot of emotion," Williams said. "It was good; we need that. We've got some guys on this team who don't really show a lot of emotion, they kind of hide it. A guy like D.J. is not afraid to put it out there, and I really like that from a player, especially from a guard who plays a leadership position."
Maryland (2-1) will conclude the three-day event with a fifth-place game against Arkansas at 2 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday. After waking at 6:15 a.m. local time to dress for Tuesday's 8:30 tip-off, Williams said he " felt for them" because he had never coached a game that began so early.
Large portions of the bleachers at the 2,400-seat Lahaina Civic Center were empty early on, when Chaminade ran off eight straight points for an early lead. At the onset, Maryland players lacked the fervor they displayed in Monday's loss to eighth-ranked Gonzaga.
Conversely, the Silverswords were celebrating as they built an 11-point lead with just more than four minutes remaining before halftime. Williams said the early struggles were not unexpected, particularly after Chaminade gave Michigan State fits for a half Monday.
Chaminade guard Zack Whiting, who had 10 of his 14 assists in the first half, said he couldn't help but think midway through that Chaminade could be on its way to an upset almost equal to the school's shocker over Ralph Sampson's Virginia team more than two decades ago.
Meantime, Strawberry was not happy with his teammates' defensive presence.
"It was pretty frustrating," he said, "because as a point guard, when you are the only one back on defense, it gets frustrating. In the second half, we did a great job with transition defense."
It was not the easiest of days for Strawberry, whom Chaminade fans relentlessly serenaded with chants of "Darryl," referencing his famous father. Williams at times calmed Strawberry's exuberance, but he also welcomed it, even when Strawberry spiked the ball near midcourt and exhorted his teammates in the first two minutes of the second half.
From that point, the game became a Maryland basketball highlight reel. When Chris McCray, who scored a team-high 17 points, converted a resounding dunk to push the Terps' lead to 13, Strawberry was the first player from the bench out on the floor, waving a towel and chest-bumping his teammate.
In the second half, the Terps nearly made more shots (20) than Chaminade attempted (25). The Silverswords made only 5 of 25 field-goal attempts in the half, including three three-pointers. The Terps, on the other hand, scored 40 points in the first 11 minutes of the half.
"Anytime they go on a run, it's usually down in the post," Whiting said. "We shoot the ball as well as any of their guards. When they go to the post, all we can do is hope they miss, I guess."
If it is any solace to Maryland, losing in the opening round of the Maui Invitational does not necessarily portend an early exit in March. Louisville, for example, lost to Iowa in the first round in Maui last year and made the Final Four.
"We're long enough, quick enough to cause some problems for most of the people we play," Williams said. "We have to be able to put that out there, and we did for 20 minutes tonight, er, this morning."