COLLEGE PARK - As they continue to prepare to defend their NCAA men's basketball championship, the Maryland Terrapins look like two teams. There is the core of seniors who have tasted so much success, followed by a line of youngsters learning how to play the game at a high level.
Last night in the Terps' exhibition opener, the old Maryland hands showed the kids how it's done.
In the team's first game at the new Comcast Center, against a Harlem Globetrotters squad that averages 27 years of age and features several former NBA players and some exceptionally large post men, Maryland answered some questions that coach Gary Williams has been pondering.
Williams watched with satisfaction as his seniors showed the way to a 97-79 victory before an announced crowd of 17,847.
Shooting guard Drew Nicholas led the Terps with 32 points and 11 rebounds, both game-highs. He made eight of 12 shots from the field and was 13-for-13 at the free-throw line.
Power forward Tahj Holden scored 22 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked a game-high four shots. Point guard Steve Blake added 21 points and six assists, and put on a blistering 6-for-7 show from three-point range. Center Ryan Randle added 11 points and eight rebounds.
In all, the four Maryland seniors who will start combined to score 86 points, including 49 of the Terps' 52 points in the second half.
"It was good for the young players to see the seniors and how badly they wanted to win that game. I thought we showed some character in the second half," Williams said.
"When you win a national championship, you wonder how hungry they'll be. They answered some questions in my mind. That was encouraging for what it was, an exhibition game against a good team that knows how to play the game."
The Terps had to work for this one, which is what Williams wanted when he scheduled the first contest in the new building. With former NBA players like forward Cedric Ceballos (team-high 23 points) and guard/forward Todd Day (12 points) driving them, the Globetrotters erased a 15-point, first-half deficit and pulled even at 66-66 with eight minutes to go.
But Maryland, which used 12 players and got some encouraging moments from freshmen like small forward Nik Caner-Medley (four points, four rebounds) and power forward Travis Garrison (two points, three rebounds), reached back with some pride and put away the old men.
The Terps dug in defensively, beat the Globetrotters on the boards and at the perimeter game by making 10 of 15 three-point attempts and performed at the foul line. Maryland made 31 of 47 attempts at the line, including 20 of 31 in the second half. Nicholas took only four second-half shots but finished off the Globetrotters by making all 12 of his free throws.
"I just told myself to be aggressive tonight. You have to go hard. Tonight, the seniors led by example," Nicholas said.
"Tonight wasn't about how good are we. It's how good can we be. Some people think we won't be that good because we lost [four starters]. I think we can be a very good basketball team."
Nicholas, who played behind Juan Dixon for three seasons, did not take long to warm to his role as Maryland's prime shooter. He made six of eight shots, including three of four from three-point range, during a 16-point show in the first half.
The Terps took an 11-7 lead before Nicholas scored seven of Maryland's next 13 points as the Terps extended their lead to 24-11 with just over 11 minutes left in the half. Nicholas dribbled through the defense for a layup, then finished the run with a fast-break three-pointer from the right wing.
The Globetrotters responded with a 7-0 run, taking advantage of some sloppy defense that got Williams boiling from the bench. He called a timeout, scolded the team, and the Terps promptly went on a 13-5 run to take a 37-22 lead with 6:30 left in the half.
But the Terps converted only one basket over the rest of the half, while their defense surrendered three three-pointers to the Globetrotters, who closed with a 19-8 burst to cut Maryland's halftime lead to 45-41.
Ceballos led the way by scoring nine of his 15 first-half points during the run.
GLOBETROTTERS-Hughes 1-3 0-0 2, Sanders 1-4 0-2 2, Coleman 2-2 0-0 4, Day 4-8 2-3 12, Dean 2-5 2-2 7, Nunnery 0-0 0-0 0, Gray 2-3 1-1 5, Branch 0-3 0-0 0, Shine 5-13 4-5 16, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Polynice 4-6 0-2 8, Ceballos 8-20 5-8 23. Totals 29-68 14-23 79.
MARYLAND-McCall 1-4 1-2 3, Randle 3-7 5-10 11, Holden 7-11 7-10 22, Nicholas 8-12 13-13 32, Blake 6-12 3-6 21, Smith 1-2 0-0 2, Collins 0-0 0-0 0, Garrison 0-1 2-2 2, Gilchrist 0-1 0-0 0, McCray 0-0 0-2 0, Grinnon 0-0 0-0 0, Caner-Medley 2-5 0-2 4. Totals 28-55 31-47 97.
Halftime-Maryland 45, Globetrotters 41. 3-point goals-Globetrotters 7-24 (Ceballos 2-7, Shine 2-6, Day 2-5, Dean 1-3, Branch 0-2, Sanders 0-1), Maryland 10-15 (Blake 6-7, Nicholas 3-5, Holden 1-3). Fouled out-Polynice, Shine, Dean. Rebounds-Globetrotters 36 (Sanders 9), Maryland 43 (Nicholas 11). Assists-Globetrotters 16 (Shine 5), Maryland 18 (Blake 6). Total fouls-Globetrotters 35, Maryland 16. A-17,847.