Terps' Steve Blake

Handy man: Detroit's Greg Grays (left) and Darius Belin defend Steve Blake, now third in all-time assists for Terps. (Sun photo by Elizabeth Malby / December 9, 2001)

COLLEGE PARK - The Detroit Titans turned out to be December pushovers after all.

The Maryland Terrapins, with their No. 3 ranking, their size and quickness advantages, and their energetic bench, were going to be a difficult target for Detroit to hit under most circumstances at Cole Field House last night.

Throw in the fact that senior forward Byron Mouton was reunited with his teammates after missing a week of practice while dealing with the death of his older brother, and the Titans never had a chance.

Four different Maryland players, including Mouton, scored in double figures, while the Terps put on another stifling display of turnover-generating, man-to-man defense. The result was a 79-54 Maryland rout in front of 14,327.

The Terps (7-1) earned their seventh consecutive victory, while extending the nation's longest nonconference home-court winning streak to 81 games. They did it by toying with a team that commands respect.

Detroit was a semifinalist in last year's National Invitation Tournament, made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 1998 and 1999, and averaged 24 victories in the previous four seasons. But it did not belong on the same floor with the Terps last night.

"Detroit has been a really good team the last three years, and going into this year they expected some good things. They're basically the same type of team as us," coach Gary Williams said.

"Coming into this game, I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought we would play hard, but I wasn't sure how our execution would be."

About 15 minutes into the game, Williams had his answer. At that point, Maryland had allowed Detroit only four field goals, had turned seven turnovers into a bunch of easy baskets and was pounding the ball inside and pushing it back out, with good results either way. With 5:51 remaining in the first half, the Terps had put Detroit (4-3) into a 29-11 hole.

The Titans got no closer than 15 points after that, as they stumbled their way to a season-low 54 points on 30.8 percent shooting from the field. Forward Terrell Riggs, who entered the game as the team's second-leading scorer, fouled out while going scoreless and taking just two shots. Detroit had eight assists and 16 turnovers.

Maryland never stopped rolling. Senior center Lonny Baxter led the way with 17 points and seven rebounds. Junior forward Tahj Holden produced his second straight strong offensive game with 14 points, and was a defensive force with six blocked shots. Senior guard Juan Dixon had 12 points, four assists and three steals.

But the evening belonged in many ways to Mouton, whose brother, Kevin, died in a shooting incident eight days ago. Mouton went home to Rayne, La., on Tuesday, attended his brother's funeral Saturday, then returned to College Park late Saturday night.

He yielded his starting job to junior Drew Nicholas (six points, five rebounds), but Mouton played with his usual fire by scoring 13 points and grabbing four rebounds in 19 minutes. Behind Mouton, the Terps bench outscored Detroit's by a 30-12 margin.

"I wanted to play today. I love playing basketball, and playing takes the pressure off," said Mouton, who entered the game with 13:22 left in the first half to a warm ovation. "That put a smile on my face. It was very emotional. I had to leave home, my mom is there alone, and these guys give me all kinds of support. I really appreciate that."

Mouton gave the crowd what it wanted immediately. He hit his first shot, a short jumper in traffic, pushing Maryland in front 17-7. He followed that with a fadeaway, 10-footer in the lane to make it 19-7. He finished by going 5-for-7 from the field.

"It was a really tough situation for [Mouton]," Holden said. "I think getting on the court was a relief. I know when my grandmother died, I wanted to get out on the basketball court as soon as I could."

From the outset, the Titans were unable to establish any offensive flow against Maryland's man-to-man defense, as they converted only four field goals in the game's first nine minutes and gave the Terps a slew of easy baskets off turnovers. Detroit committed 11 turnovers and recorded only three assists in the first half.

"I think we were our worst enemy tonight," Detroit coach Perry Watson said.

NOTES: Freshman reserve forward Mike Grinnon served the first part of a two-game suspension last night because of a violation of team rules. Grinnon also will not be in uniform for tomorrow night's game against visiting Monmouth. ... For the first time in his collegiate career, Maryland point guard Steve Blake did not score, but he recorded eight assists to surpass Terps great John Lucas and move into third place with 521 career assists.