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Key To Hot First Half

The impression Miami forward Dwayne Collins left in Dave Neal's chest erased any lingering doubt 53 seconds into last night's contest -- the Terps were not going to remain competitive by matching the Hurricanes' physicality. Collins caught the ball in the post, knocked Neal to the ground with a swift shoulder jab, then hit a turnaround jumper.

But by the team Neal had picked himself off the floor, Maryland was seconds away from negating Collins's brutality. Neal glanced up court just in time to see Eric Hayes glide toward the basket and finish a lay-up to put the Terps back on top.

Keeping in constant motion was Maryland's best bet to defeat the Hurricanes, who early on appeared intent on intimidating a smaller Terps frontcourt with their size and ferocity. Maryland steadfastly stuck to that plan in the first half, taking several blows in stride without losing focus or pace in transition.

The Terps' superior energy level was evident to Miami Coach Frank Haith, who pointed out several times during his postgame press conference that Maryland's players had "more zip" than his Hurricanes out of the gate.

Maryland has established pressing defense and transition offense as central components of its identity this season, but the Terps rarely had utilized both tools at once during a game's first half. Usually one or the other sufficed until the second half, when Maryland would kick both into gear and make an emphatic push towards preserving victory.

With a 12-point halftime lead, the Terps had no need for such exuberance in the second half. They opted to slow things down, to conserve energy, to "milk the clock" as senior forward Dave Neal put it.

In the end, they paid for it. By not staying true to their identity -- one they have proven can lead to success -- the Terps find themselves losers of two out of their last three games and in desperate need of a win Saturday at Florida State.

"We were trying to slow down the game, but that’s not our game," junior guard Greivis Vasquez said. "We just got to keep on it and run the ball every time and try to score on fast break and all that."

By Steve Yanda  |  January 15, 2009; 1:19 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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