COLLEGE PARK - It wasn't the Big Dance, the crowd wasn't anywhere close to a sellout and Maryland needed most of the first half to find its rhythm Tuesday night in a NIT first-round matchup with Niagara.
But when the Terrapins got going, they ran past the Purple Eagles in an 86-70 victory in front of 4,053 at Comcast Center.
Maryland's first postseason appearance in three years didn't come by way of the NCAA tournament, with the Terps falling short of an at-large bid despite a pair of ACC tourney victories - one of which came against Duke in the quarterfinals - and finishing their regular season with 22 wins. Maryland instead earned a No. 2 seed in the NIT, and a first-round home game against a Niagara squad that won its regular-season conference championship.
The seventh-seeded Purple Eagles couldn't keep up in the second half, however, as Maryland (23-12) outscored them 51-35 and enjoyed a lopsided win.
"We came out with a lot more energy," said freshman guard Seth Allen, one of five Terrapins in double figures. "We just started running in transition and that really helped us."
Allen had 15 points, as did sophomore guard Nick Faust and senior guard Logan Aronhalt, who sank five 3-pointers in the win. Sophomore guard Dez Wells added 12 points and freshman forward Charles Mitchell scored 10.
Faust grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds while junior guard Pe'Shon Howard handed out six assists.
Things didn't go Maryland's way for good, however, until after the break.
The Terrapins outscored Niagara 21-3 in the first 7 minutes, 5 seconds of the second half to take a 56-38 lead. Niagara coach Joe Mihalich called a 30-second timeout to try and slow down Maryland's attack, but the break didn't help the Purple Eagles too much - they missed their first nine shots of the half and started 1 for 16 from the floor.
"Real pleased with our second half," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "The start of the second half we were great. The press was good to us, our half-court defense was good ... We had a lot of guys play well."
Maryland forged a first-half tie thanks to a 12-6 run to close the first 20 minutes. Faust and sophomore center Alex Len combined for eight of those points during that stretch, with Faust's layup underneath giving the Terps a 35-32 lead with one minute to go.
Niagara (19-14) answered with a 3-pointer from Ameen Tanksley (11 points in the half) and the Purple Eagles drew even. Antoine Mason had 10 of his game-high 24 points in the first half.
Meanwhile, Wells led Maryland with seven points in the half, and Len and Mitchell added six apiece.
Turgeon said his team's depth proved the difference in wearing down Niagara. Mihalich pointed to the closing minutes of the first half, when his team went from leading by six points to being down four in a flash.
"I thought we had these guys back on their heels a little bit. I thought we had a chance in the first half," Mihalich said. "Then it was dunk, layup, dunk, tie game. And that was just what they needed to remind them how good they are, that they beat Duke twice. They got a little of that mojo going."
Maryland will stay at home for a second-round game Thursday against Denver as the NIT field thins from 32 to 16. It's not the NCAA tourney, but the Terps seem appreciative to be included.
"A lot of teams aren't fortunate enough to play in the postseason," said Allen, "so we just look at this as a good experience."