COLLEGE PARK -- Jump aboard the juggernaut that has become the University of Maryland basketball team. Make sure to buckle your seat belts: The ride could get a little more bumpy, and exciting, from here on out.
Next stop for the Terrapins is the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Last night's 109-69 romp over Howard at Cole Field House was the seventh straight victory for Maryland (8-1), which is off to its best start and riding its longest winning streak in eight years. Now things get interesting for the Terps.
Did anyone say nationally ranked Maryland? Based on their victory last week over Louisville, the Terps could gather a few votes when the top-25 rankings come out tomorrow. But Maryland coach Gary Williams is not holding his breath.
"I think some people think we're still on probation," Williams said last week.
They are, however, playing like a team freed from the shackles of its two years of NCAA sanctions. Though the Terps had trouble maintaining their concentration midway through the game after building an early, easy lead on the Bison, they got it back in the last 15 minutes.
Evers Burns, whose offensive production dropped off the past few games, took over in the opening minutes. The senior forward from Woodlawn hit all eight of his first-half field-goal attempts and scored 21 of his game-high 27 points to help the Terps to a 56-33 lead at halftime. Kevin McLinton added 21, including nine of nine from the free-throw line.
"Evers shot the ball very well tonight," Williams said of Burns, who was 10 of 13 from the field. "He had a great first half. He's just the type of player that when he's open, he can shoot the ball. Kevin had a good all-around game. I think we're playing well. The ACC is starting. It's time to play in the league."
It was Maryland's fourth win, all at home, during a 10-day stretch since coming back from exams. It gives the Terps the proper impetus going into Tuesday night's ACC opener against 14th-ranked Georgia Tech. The defeat dropped Howard, an NCAA tournament team a year ago, to 2-7.
"I think we're ready," said McLinton, who finished with nine assists and six rebounds -- as well as 10 of Maryland's 27 turnovers. "It's about time to start the [conference] season. It comes at the perfect time. We're on a roll."
The Terps rolled over the Bison right from the start. With the help of a slightly overwhelmed crew of inexperienced ACC officials, the Terps went to the free-throw line early and often.
Maryland ended up shooting 44 free throws, making 30. Howard was a dismal six of 16 from the line.
"What you saw tonight was a crime," said Howard coach Butch Beard, who saw assistant coach Jerry Eaves ejected after a second technical foul with 8:30 left in the game. "Forget the fact that they were going to win by 25 or 30 points.
"The way the officiating is in college basketball is unbelievable. I guarantee when they play an ACC team, like a Duke or a North Carolina, they won't shoot 44 free throws. The way it is it takes all the fun out of it for the kids.
"Gary has a very good ballclub and they play hard. I don't know where they'll finish in the ACC. They're going to win their share of games."