Maryland struggled scoring at times in 2008-09, but if its season opener last week is any indication, the offense should be much improved.
The No. 25 Terrapins, ranked for the first time in more than two years, look to build on that strong performance as they host Fairfield on Tuesday night.
Maryland began the season with an 89-51 win over Charleston Southern on Friday, leading the entire game while holding the Buccaneers to 29.5 percent shooting. That performance was good enough to move the Terps back into the Top 25 for the first time since the final rankings of the 2006-07 season.
Maryland is looking to remain in the poll after struggling the last two seasons to gain national recognition. The Terps went a combined 40-29 in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and missed the NCAA tournament in ’08. However, they reached the second round of the tournament last season, and the return of most of that team - including leading scorer Greivis Vasquez - led to big expectations in College Park.
“I’m happy,” Vasquez said after the season opener. “I’m looking forward to the whole season because we have some Maryland basketball going on here.”
Much of the problem for Maryland last season was its offensive struggles. The Terps ranked ninth in the ACC with 71.8 points per game.
They didn’t have much trouble scoring Friday behind five players who finished in double figures, led by strong debuts from freshmen Jordan Williams and James Padgett. Williams had 12 points and nine rebounds while Padgett finished with 10 points and eight boards in 19 minutes off the bench.
“We need to be able to score,” said coach Gary Williams, whose team shot 50.7 percent overall and scored 52 points in the second half. “Last year we got away with not scoring inside and we have to be able to score inside. Both James and Jordan are going to be able to do that as time goes by. It is going to be inconsistent and is not going to be pretty all the time, but those two guys worked well together when they were out there tonight, which is good to see.”
However, not everyone was able to put up big offensive numbers. Vasquez, who averaged 17.5 points last season, finished with nine points and went 3 for 14 from the field. The senior guard, though, was focused on the positives, including his 13 assists.
“Just getting a win is important to me,” said Vasquez, who averaged 5.0 assists last season. “I’m not worried about me scoring 25 points or being the leading scorer. I’m worried about winning games. … To me it’s more important to average 10 assists a game.”
Friday’s win was Maryland’s 100th at the Comcast Center, which opened in 2002. Although the Terps haven’t played consistently at times, they’ve made their home court one of the toughest in the nation. They play their next two contests at home before going on the road for five.
Maryland’s offense could be challenged by Fairfield (2-0), which has held opponents to 56.5 points and 33.3 percent shooting to start the season. The Stags beat Fordham 63-55 on Sunday, breaking open a game that was tied at the half with a 9-2 run coming out of the break.
Fairfield shot only 29.4 percent, but it made 28 of 41 free throws while the Rams were 8 of 12. Derek Needham scored 19 points, going 10 of 12 at the line. The freshman is averaging 16.5 points in his first two games.
The Stags lost both of their games against ranked opponents last season.
This is the first meeting between Maryland and Fairfield.