Terps squash Longwood, now face make-or-break road stretch


COLLEGE PARK, Md. — You’d be hard pressed to find a more lopsided affair than independent Longwood traveling to Comcast Center to meet the Terps on Wednesday night.

With just one starter taller than 6-foot-2, the Lancers were overmatched, overwhelmed, and overawed by Maryland in a merciless 106-52 beating.

The Terps (16-8, 5-4 ACC) exploded to an early 11-0 lead and never relented as junior Sean Mosley led all scorers with 20 points while sophomore star Jordan Williams dealt with surprising foul trouble against the undersized Lancers (8-19), finishing with just nine points and 11 rebounds.

Maryland held an overwhelming 55-28 edge on the glass, its biggest margin of the season.

Six players reached double-digit scoring for the Terps as they concluded the non-conference portion of their schedule, finishing a perfect 10-0 at home against out-of-conference foes. Perhaps more impressive than the scoring output was the Terps’ season-high 28 assists, giving them 55 in their last two games.

“You still have to make shots,” said Gary Williams, who earned his 665th career victory to pass legendary UCLA coach John Wooden on the all-time wins list. “It’s one thing to make the pass, but we finished off some really good passes tonight. I think that was a key also.”

With their final gimme now in the books, the Terps now face their most critical stretch of the season as two ACC road games against Boston College and Virginia Tech loom over the next seven days. Maryland fell to both schools at home, collapsing down the stretch in a 79-75 loss to the Eagles on December 12 and suffering a humiliating 74-57 rout to the Hokies nearly three weeks ago.

At 5-4 and currently tied for fifth with Virginia Tech and only a half-game ahead of Boston College in the ACC, the Terps badly need the next two games to not only extract revenge but separate themselves from the middle-of-the-pack in a down year for the conference. Maryland’s margin for error is small as it eyes the consensus 10-6 (or better?) mark needed to put itself in the good graces of the NCAA selection committee.

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For a team that expressed a need for urgency after last week’s blowout loss to Duke, now would be the ideal time to see it. If it’s again absent in Chestnut Hill and Blacksburg, it may be too late to reach a third straight NCAA tournament bid — short of winning the ACC tournament next month.

In a season full of “not quite good enough” performances, the next two games will likely make or break the Terps’ postseason aspirations.

“We know [this stretch is] going to be tough,” Mosley said. “We come out and take one game at a time and play 40 minutes hard each game. It’s not going to be a cakewalk. It’s definitely going to be competition.”

Working in Maryland’s favor is its success on the road in conference play, holding a 3-1 record with wins at Wake Forest, Virginia, and Georgia Tech. However, far more challenging tests await the Terps as they try to substantiate their road mettle.

The time is now for freshmen Pe’Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin to assert themselves in the conference. Their head coach spoke about their continued improvement and maturity following Wednesday’s game. A combined 26 points and 10 assists look great against the Lancers, but the temptation in trying to do too much will be even stronger over the next week.

And with that, Williams will lean on his upperclassmen for leadership in preparing for the final seven regular season games and handling the pressure of playing in hostile environments. The Terps will also fight the temptation of focusing on what’s happening elsewhere given their uncertain tournament standing.

“Don’t worry about [scoreboard watching],” said Gregory, who scored 14 points and 11 rebounds. “As long as we win our games and focus on what we’ve got to do to get to the NCAA tournament, that’s all you have to do. Just focus on one [game] at a time.”

The Terps said all the right things and were well-versed on their clichés after their glorified scrimmage with the junior-varsity-like Lancers. Whether they’ve truly learned from their past shortcomings in big games remains to be seen.

“I thought we played well tonight,” Gary Williams said. “It’s a little difficult to tell [how much we’ve improved].

“But we’ll know Saturday.”

NOTES: Maryland is 8-0 when scoring 80 or more points and reached 100 points for the second time this season. The 54-point margin of victory ranked 13th in school history and was the biggest since a 62-point win over Chicago State on Dec. 27, 2000. … Maryland set season highs in 3-pointers made (10) and attempted (28). … Adrian Bowie scored in double figures for the eight time in the last nine games and had six assists. … The Terps are 4-0 with the starting lineup of Howard, Bowie, Mosley, Gregory, and Williams. … The University of Maryland will honor Greivis Vasquez at Comcast Center on February 20 in a game against N.C. State. Maryland will honor Vasquez’s No. 21 jersey by raising it to the rafters, but the program does not retire jersey numbers.