Maryland was finally able to capture some breathing room towards the final 12 minutes of play. After contributing just a rebound in the first half, Cliff Tucker exploded for 14 points by outracing defenders on layups, as well as draining shots from the three-point arc.
How fitting that Tucker, in his second straight game coming off the bench, was able to make his presence felt against the team he earned his first start against as a freshman. Tucker currently is filling in admirably as the Terps’ sixth man; he’s scored in double-figures in consecutive games for the first time since the initial six games of the season. The energy he is supplying in the second unit is helping his head coach to determine the best mixture of talents on the floor.
“"We are still in the process of seeing what combinations work best for us,” Williams said following the game. “It's a challenge to get the right people on the court at the right time, but I like challenges, and it will be interesting to see what works best for us."
And on what we consider a modest performance for Jordan Williams, the sophomore center sealed his name in the Maryland record books. He tied the school record of seven consecutive double-doubles set by Joe Smith in the 1995 season. Williams entered the game tied in the nation for the most double-doubles, and finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, the 10th board coming with just four minutes remaining.
Perhaps the 1-10 effort from the charity stripe would have eased the hearts of fans at the Comcast Center, although his last attempt was a success, and the crowd roared with appreciation. Williams took it with a grain of salt.
“"It is a great accomplishment. Being compared to Joe Smith is unbelievable,” Williams said, but was anything but shy about his struggles from the free throw line. Williams said his nine missed free throws let down his teammates and he would shoot 200 before he left tonight. “That’s what I take from the game: `what can I do better?'”
In no way was the win as convincing as expected, but Maryland took advantage of the Atlantic Sun’s most turnover-prone team. Heading into tonight’s contest, North Florida turned the ball over 204 times; in contrast, they managed just 121 assists in that same time.
On the other hand, how ironic is it that two teams that pride themselves on having two of the most unique nicknames in the land – the Terrapins and the Ospreys – did their best to play copycat. The Terps did their best to hand over the win, turning in a sloppy performance of their own and committing 17 turnovers, matching the third most in a game this season.
Head coach Gary Williams suggested the later final exams schedule instituted by the university may have reared its ugly head. Finals week for Maryland are taken a week after most schools, which puts them right into the heat of their schedule. The scheduling dilemma coincides with the time off the players get for the holidays and the players were simply showing some rust.
But Sean Mosley had a different take, considering the fewer distractions and games allows players to focus more on practice, developing a strong chemistry on the court and getting time to work out the kinks.
“We want to play to games, but at the same time our schedule wouldn’t let us with the exams. We get a lot of time to be around each other on and off the court,” Mosley said. “It’s pretty much just spending your time in the gym, and that’s when teams start to get better.”
Fifteen points, six assists and four rebounds favor Mosley’s argument.
For the Ospreys, their own sixth man, sharp-shooter Parker Smith provided a game-high 21 points in just 23 minutes. Smith shot 60 percent from the field and over 55 percent from downtown. His efforts did not go unnoticed by Williams, who believes he and his teammates will be no easy out in the Atlantic Sun this year.
“They play every possession. They just keep coming 40 minutes. Whatever they can do they do. When they get back in their league,” after a game against No. 17 Kansas State, “they’re going to be a pretty out because they know how to play and they play with a lot of heart. I was really impressed with how they approached things tonight."