GREENSBORO, N.C. --- Maryland opted not to make its first Tobacco Road visit of the season remotely complex.
Play to strengths. Improve weaknesses. Win.
Pretty simple. And, after a 97-63 rout of UNC Greensboro on Sunday, more than effective.
“The emphasis today was to get back to playing the way we like to play,” coach Gary Williams said. “We have a good team. We have to just go play.”
Greivis Vasquez scored 24 points and Landon Milbourne added 22 points before 3,297 at the Greensboro Coliseum for the Terrapins (9-4), who sufficiently recovered from their loss Wednesday to William & Mary to drop 52 points on the scuffling Spartans (2-11) by the break.
Vasquez and Milbourne certainly thrived in a frenetic game against an overmatched foe, but it was the successes of other players that were perhaps even more welcome.
Adrian Bowie (11 points) reached double figures for the first time all season. Dino Gregory, with a matching 11 points, set a career-high.
Both juniors --- not to mention the Terps’ struggling bench --- needed the breakout performance as Maryland closed in on conference play.
That much was obvious when Bowie turned back to his strength --- his ability to zip past defenders and drive the lane --- in giving the Terps a 27-16 lead in the first half.
“Once I got to the basket the first time, I knew I could get there any time I wanted to,” Bowie said. “It didn’t have to result in me getting a shot. If I could just dish off to my teammates, it would help me a lot.”
Bowie’s path to success mirrored his team’s. Just days after hoisting shot after shot from the perimeter, Maryland made a concerted effort to pummel UNC Greensboro inside.
It worked better than ever. The Terps held a 58-8 edge in the paint, some of it on transition baskets. But just as much of it came on crafty passing from outside to inside and right back out again.
Then there was the rebounding, a bugaboo for Maryland throughout the season. But a 54-33 edge on the glass was an encouraging development for the Terps, who missed only 30 shots and still got 17 offensive rebounds.
“I was really happy. If we had a weakness against William & Mary, it was the fact we didn’t go inside,” Williams said. “I don’t mind 3-point shots at all, but we have to go inside first.”
Absent were the befuddling shots and lack of patience exhibited just a few days earlier. Also gone was the defensive indifference; in its place was perhaps too much aggressiveness, since UNC Greensboro hung within three possessions for about 12 minutes thanks to a steady march to the foul line before rapidly fading to a 52-34 deficit at the break.
There was no coasting, either. While the Terps didn’t reach the 100-point plateau ---- something they haven’t done in 104 games, dating back to a 2006 rout of Missouri-Kansas City --- there was a renewed commitment to defense in the second half.
“We really needed this win,” Williams said. “At the same time, we stuck with what we do. We felt before the game if we did what we were supposed to do, we’d be OK. We’ve been struggling a little bit with that, just to stay with what we do. Today we did, so I think that was a big factor. For the players, it’s good to see it works.”
Particularly at this time of the season. It’ll be another week before the Terps play again, but the next game carries great significance. It begins Maryland’s 16-game run through the ACC regular season, a stretch certain to serve as the ultimate arbiter in the direction of a season still lacking an identity.
The Terps’ 9-4 record is blasé, filled with little of note, good or bad. That will change soon enough, certainly by the time Maryland returns here in two months for the conference tournament. Yesterday’s victory doesn’t change the anonymous profile. The way it was achieved, though, might provide a map to help Maryland in the coming weeks.
“We just knew what we had to get done today, and we went out there and did it,” Milbourne said.
Simple as that.