COLLEGE PARK -- For want of a respectable start, UMBC's shot at an upset was lost last night at Cole Field House.
UMBC never climbed out of a 16-4 hole and surrendered its big chance, losing to young and unbeaten Maryland, 89-80, before 10,619.
It was the narrowest winning margin of the six-game series for Maryland (4-0), which starts three sophomores and two freshmen.
UMBC (1-1) stepped up considerably in class from its opening victory over Division III Washington College and played a gritty game by capitalizing on its experience and depth.
The Terps bent but never totally cracked, putting the game away with a 12-1 streak after UMBC had closed to 55-52 with 13:24 left.
From that point, UMBC doggedly tried to sustain a rally, but never got closer than seven (82-75).
"UMBC came in with a lot of emotion and really pumped up," said Terps freshman Keith Booth of Dunbar, who had 14 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks. "We got a little name for ourselves by beating Georgetown and I guess now everyone wants to beat us."
Maryland coach Gary Williams acknowledged that his team's rapid start was the difference.
"UMBC did a great job," he said. "After the start they made us work and came up with some big steals. They worked harder than we did. They out-hustled us."
The Retrievers couldn't recover from their woeful first-half shooting,when they hit only 13 of 41 (31.7 percent).
Despite a game-high 23 points from senior Skip Saunders, UMBC simply couldn't sustain its offense with senior Sonique Nixon in foul trouble and restricted to 19 minutes and nine points.
"If we shoot the ball well, we could have had this game won," said Saunders. "It's upsetting to think we could have beat a team like this if we had only executed our system."
Coach Earl Hawkins said his team had too much trouble with half-court offense and allowed the Terps too many easy opportunities in transition by succumbing to defensive pressure.
"You can never play catch-up against a good club and expect to win," he said. "It's not good enough to be close. We've got to get to the point where we're mentally tougher and then we'll be a good basketball team."
Maryland never seemed in real danger with all five starters hitting double figures in scoring and 15 steals effectively blunting UMBC's efforts to mount a streak.
Center Joe Smith, an early-season sensation, fouled out but had another solid game with 19 points, seven rebounds and six blocks.
Exree Hipp topped the scorers with 21 and Johnny Rhodes and Duane Simpkins had 14 and 11, respectively, though they were a collective 0-for-5 from three-point range.
UMBC is 0-8 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams, but it unveiled a weapon in 7-foot-2 Pascal Fleury, a transfer from Georgetown who provided a spark that stopped Maryland's early runaway with two blocked shots and a dunk.
"The Big South will find out about him," said Saunders. "There aren't many like him in that league."