COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- Final exams are over, and midseason TC break has begun for most University of Maryland students. Most, but certainly not all. Consider the members of the Terrapins basketball team.
While their friends have departed for various vacation spots, the 5-1 Terps start back to work today for a 1 p.m. game against Towson State (2-4) at Cole Field House. It marks Maryland's first game since a 96-79 loss Dec. 10 at Louisville.
"I think it's really hard to predict how we're going to react," Terps coach Gary Williams said Thursday before practice, the team's first full-scale workout since its last game. "Physically, we're in pretty good shape. But this is the hardest time of year to play."
Maryland showed that last year, when in the first game following finals, it struggled for more than 30 minutes against Lafayette before posting a 64-48 victory. But most of the Terps don't expect a repeat of last year's sluggishness.
"We're a veteran club and we don't think that will happen again," said junior guard Kevin McLinton. "We just want to do the things that got us the 5-0 start and not do the things that led to us losing in Louisville."
While Towson State has much of the quickness that bothered Maryland against Louisville, the Tigers have none of the depth or very much size to give the Terps a lot of trouble.
Since losing senior point guard Devin Boyd with a fractured elbow in the season opener Nov. 25 at Colorado, Towson State has struggled. The Tigers hung tough with North Carolina, but have lost badly to both UMBC and Mount St. Mary's.
"I don't think playing without Devin has anything to do with our lack of defensive intensity," said Towson State coach Terry Truax, whose team hasn't played since beating Washington College, 74-50, Dec. 14. "But without Devin in the lineup, we haven't been able to defend the other team's quarterback."
Though Terrance Alexander has helped seniors Terrance Jacobs and Chuck Lightening pick up the offensive void left by Boyd's injury, the freshman from Dunbar is still adjusting to the type of defense Truax expects from him.
"I asked Terrance, 'Did anyone ever teach you how to play defense?' " said Truax. "When he came here, he couldn't guard a grenade with a cannon. He has to learn about the college game in terms of [defensive] intensity."
But the problem isn't solely Alexander's defense. The Tigers are barely over 60 percent from the free throw line, and once you get past the team's three top scorers, the drop-off is considerable.
With Boyd expected to apply for a medical redshirt, and with the Tigers not in line for an NCAA tournament bid since its league, the East Coast Conference, lost its automatic invitation, Towson State could be in for a long season.
And against the Terps, the Tigers could be in for a long afternoon.
"We could get shut out," said Truax.
He was kidding.
But you never know what to expect after final exams.