COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- La Salle was advertised as Maryland's last real test before Atlantic Coast Conference competition begins next week. But the Explorers (5-2) filled that bill for only a half as the ninth-ranked Terps used their superior speed and front-line power in the second half to cruise to a 96-80 victory before a sellout crowd of 14,500 at Cole Field House last night. Maryland (9-2), averaging 101.6 points, failed to top the century mark for only the second time in the past seven games. But the Terps' balanced performance last night against a quality team had to impress coach Gary Williams even more than their recent blowouts of UMBC, Colgate, Towson State and Morgan State. TC The Terps blew it open early in the second half. After a tie at 45, they outscored the Explorers 20-4 in a six-minute span to take a 65-49 lead and were never threatened. All-America center Joe Smith and forwards Mario Lucas and Keith Booth each scored 18 points to lead the offense. For Lucas, a junior who has become a key sixth man, it was a career high; Booth, a sophomore from Baltimore, tied a career high. "I wanted to get stronger and quicker," Lucas said of his off-season regimen. "There's a fine line between being big and quick. The weights and running program really helped me feel stronger." Williams is counting on Lucas to improve the team's perimeter shooting. He made all three of his three-point attempts last night. "I'm getting to shoot it more this season," said Lucas, who also had eight rebounds. "I was thinking too much last year." Junior forward Romaine Haywood led La Salle with 26 points. The two teams indicated their offensive strategy in the opening minutes with the Terps concentrating on working the ball inside and the Explorers looking for perimeter shots. After Maryland jumped to a 5-0 lead, Kareem Townes bounced in consecutive three-pointers. Another three by Haywood and a drive by the junior forward gave La Salle a 13-9 edge. The home crowd finally came to life when Smith turned a lob pass from Johnny Rhodes into a thundering dunk to close to 16-13. Maryland used its superior size on the offensive board to gain second shots but was having trouble converting. On defense, the Terps began trapping more in the backcourt. The strategy paid off with a steal by Rhodes leading to a layup by Exree Hipp to put Maryland back on top, 23-22. Both teams experienced shooting problems over a three-minute span, forcing up low-percentage shots. Lucas ended the drought by hitting a three-pointer to push the Terps lead to 34-29. La Salle answered with five straight points to pull even. But the Terps found the range from outside as freshman Sarunas Jasikevicius and Lucas hit three-pointers for a 41-36 spread. Reserve forward Everett Catlin ended the first-half scoring with a baseline jumper, cutting the Terps lead to 43-40. Booth was the only Terp in double figures, scoring 10 points. Haywood, with 15, and Townes, with 11, carried the La Salle offense. Maryland shot only 44 percent from the field, but out-rebounded the Explorers 23-14, with Smith and Rhodes each grabbing six. The Terps increased the tempo in the opening minutes of the second half. Point guard Duane Simpkins, who had been struggling with his shooting, made a 10-foot runner and followed with a three-pointer to provide a 52-45 advantage. Haywood ended the Terps' 8-0 run with a free throw before Simpkins hit another three-point shot for a 10-point spread. It began to take on the appearance of a blowout as La Salle had trouble handling the ball and was getting pounded on the boards. Smith and Lucas combined for seven straight points to give the Terps a 63-48 bulge with 13:43 left. The sellout crowd responded when Smith and Lucas rejected consecutive shots and Lucas was fouled on the other end of the floor. The lead grew to 20 points at the 10-minute mark, 73-53, when Hipp dropped in a lob pass by Rhodes. Maryland displayed excellent interior passing, leading to layups by Booth and Smith and allowing coach Williams to make liberal use of his reserves. LA SALLE -- Haywood 9-16 3-6 26, Newton 5-6 3-4 13, Van Teeseling 5-8 1-3 11, Townes 5-14 3-4 16, Burke 2-12 2-2 7, Gizzi 0-4 0-0 0, Landgren 1-4 0-0 3, Catlin 2-2 0-0 4, Flickinger 0-1 0-0 0, Fromal 0-0 0-0 0, Comey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-67 12-19 80. MARYLAND -- Hipp 5-6 1-3 11, Booth 7-8 4-5 18, Smith 4-8 10-11 18, Simpkins 5-10 1-2 14, Rhodes 4-11 2-2 11, Bristol 0-5 0-0 0, Lucas 5-8 5-6 18, Jasikevicius 1-2 1-2 4, Elliott 0-1 0-2 0, Kovarik 1-1 0-0 2, Raydo 0-0 0-0 0, Shultz 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 32-61 24-33 96. Halftime--Maryland 43, La Salle 40. 3-point goals--La Salle 10-32 (Haywood 5-9, Townes 3-9, Landren 1-3, Burke 1-7, Flickinger 0-1, Gizzi 0-3), Maryland 8-18 (Lucas 3-3, Simpkins 3-6, Jasikevicius 1-2, Rhodes 1-4, Bristol 0-3). Fouled out--Haywood. Rebounds--La Salle 33 (Haywood 9), Maryland 40 (Smith 9). Assists--La Salle 21 (Burke 9), Maryland 23 (Hipp 5). Total fouls--La Salle 22, Maryland 18. A--14,500.