COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP)—To make sure his unbeaten basketball team brought the proper attitude into its game against unheralded High Point, Maryland coach Gary Williams drew up a list of this season’s upsets.
The Terrapins left the locker room and proceeded to play a miserable first half.
“Obviously, we have to scrap that pregame talk,” a relieved Williams said after No. 25 Maryland pulled away to an 81-63 victory Friday.
Ekene Ibekwe scored 16 points before leaving with an injury, and James Gist and D.J. Strawberry each had 15 for the Terrapins (7-0), who outscored the Panthers 44-30 after halftime.
“You’re not going to have it every time you step out on the court. You’ve got to be mentally focused as a team and mentally tough in order to go out there and put out your best performance,” Strawberry said. “It wasn’t our best performance today, but we picked it up in the second half and came out with the win. That’s what’s important.”
Freshman Greivis Vasquez added 11 points for the Terrapins, who never trailed but led by only 4 points at halftime.
“I think we were a little laid-back in the first half, but we came out in the second half and picked it, defense-wise, and got the win,” Gist said. “That was the first time that happened this year, and hopefully the last.”
Maryland opened the second half with a 9-2 run, expanding its 37-33 halftime edge to 46-35 over High Point (3-3). Four different players scored in the surge, which provided the Terrapins with a double-digit lead for the first time since it was 25-15.
It was 52-43 when High Point forward Arizona Reid picked up his fourth foul with 13:17 remaining. After Landon Quick scored for the Panthers, Maryland guard Parrish Brown made a 3-pointer, followed his own miss with a layup and tossed an alley-oop pass to Strawberry to make it 59-45.
Vasquez then made two free throws for a 16-point lead with 11 minutes to go.
Afterward, Williams learned Missouri State upset No. 7 Wisconsin.
“It’s going on all over the country. You just can’t judge your opponent,” Williams said. “It used to be that these teams would never lose to these teams over here. Those days are done. There are too many good players around and too many good coaches.”
The Terrapins face a far more formidable opponent Tuesday, when they meet Illinois on the road in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge.
Maryland hopes to have the services of Ibekwe, who apparently hurt his left ankle with 1:57 remaining and had to be helped off the court.
“We certainly think he can play against Illinois,” Williams said.
Reid scored 19 points on 9-for-17 shooting, and Mike Jefferson added 16 for High Point. Reid, who had a team-high five rebounds, fouled out with 7:28 left.
“We played 36 of 40 minutes and kept up, but let them take advantage at the end,” Panthers coach Bart Lundy said. “We put them at the free throw line, and those are points we don’t get.”
The Terrapins made 19 of 25 free throws compared to a 2-for-6 performance by High Point.