COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK - The flashing lights and pulsating music that accompany the introduction of the starting lineup get the fans at Comcast Center, particularly the student section, fired up at the beginning of each Maryland home game.
If only the pre-game fireworks would have the same effect on the Terrapins.
As Gary Williams goes after his 400th victory at his alma mater tonight against Vermont (1-1), Maryland (2-0) will try to do something it has yet to accomplish in its first two games this season: hit shots and make plays right from the opening tip.
"We have to figure out ways to start the game and what method to use to get everyone on the team hyped up and ready to play," junior forward Landon Milbourne said yesterday. "We can't keep doing this. If we play a good team, it might bite us in the long run."
Said Williams: "It's part of being a young team. You guys put us on an island sometimes. You look at a Jacksonville-Georgetown game, a team that is nationally ranked, you'd think that would be a bigger spread [71-62]. That's not said after those games. All we can do is work hard and try to get better."
What has carried Maryland in its first games has been a defense that alternates between suffocating and just plain sneaky. Bucknell missed 14 of its first 15 shots and finished the game 19 of 60, including three of 16 on threes. Youngstown State was 19 of 57 overall, 0-for-13 on threes.
"It's been an outstanding defensive effort for two games for 40 minutes," Williams said. "You're going to be in games where you're down 10-2, so what do you do? You learn that if you keep playing defense, then you have a chance to get back in the game."
The Terps have also forced 43 turnovers, many of them coming from Maryland's trapping and pressing defenses.
"When you're a pressing team, the players have to be careful that the players don't rely on that," Williams said. "We should be able to score without pressing."
The difference tonight is that Vermont, coached by former Maryland assistant Mike Lonergan, is better than either of the teams Maryland has played.
The Catamounts can shoot (64 of 122 overall, 10 of 23 on threes) and in 6-foot-5 junior forward Marqus Blakeley have the only player in the country aside from former Kansas State star Michael Beasley who had 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game last season.
"He's one of those players who everybody looked at [and] said he's not big enough to play the way he plays," Williams said. "Now, I think anybody would take him on their team. That happens in recruiting. Nobody wants a 6-4 power forward until you see what he's averaging in a game. He's very good."
Williams looks back a year ago to when the Terps really did struggle to win two of their first three games, beating Hampton by six and winning in overtime against Northeastern.
"This team has been criticized a lot more than last year's team, maybe because we had a couple of seniors [James Gist and Bambale Osby] who played a lot and people thought, 'Maybe it will take awhile for them to come around,' " Williams said. "I'm very pleased with this team in terms of how they work every day. We usually as a team show up ready to go."
Maybe that will carry over tonight, after the pre-game fireworks end.
VERMONT (1-1) @MARYLAND (2-0)
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM