COLLEGE PARK - As he trudged to the Comcast Center locker room after last season's game against American, Maryland forward Landon Milbourne heard an unfamiliar noise.
"When we walked off the court I heard some people booing. I had never experienced that before, especially not on a home court," Milbourne said.
Maryland's 67-59 loss to American a year ago was a disquieting experience for Milbourne - "I was stunned," the junior said - and one that provides ample motivation for the Terrapins (7-2) in their rematch against the Eagles (5-5) tonight.
It was a game in which Maryland got just four field goals from its frontcourt. Milbourne, Dave Neal, Braxton Dupree and the now-graduated James Gist and Bambale Osby combined to shoot 4-for-23.
But it is Maryland's guards who might have the most incentive tonight. That's because speedy guard Derrick Mercer, then a junior, embarrassed the Terps last year with his scoring and penetration. Mercer, 5 feet 9, played all 40 minutes and scored 18 points. He and fellow senior guard Garrison Carr return tonight to try to lead another upset.
Said Maryland forward Neal: "I think [guard] Greivis [Vasquez] is going to take it personal and shut them down. They're a good team, but we're obviously better than them; we're more athletic. We just can't give Carr and their guards open looks."
American is a senior-dominated team coached by Jeff Jones, who played and coached at Virginia. In its most recent game, American beat UMBC, 74-61, behind 34 points by Carr. Maryland just completed final exams and hasn't played since defeating Delaware State, 86-58, on Dec. 12.
If the American loss was particularly hard on Milbourne, that's because of his history. The swingman, who became a starter last season, wasn't accustomed to losing. In high school, his team from Virginia's Oak Hill Academy was 40-1 his senior season. He enjoyed the same sort of success his junior year at St. Francis (Ga.) High.
"I think my junior and senior year combined we probably lost three games," Milbourne said.
"When we lost, it hurt so bad we really didn't know how to handle it. You have to learn from it, you have to watch film, you have to see where your mistakes are."
AMERICAN (5-5) @ MARYLAND (7-2)
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM