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After overcoming 'nervousness' in win, Terps look to young season's biggest test

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon watched his team struggle through an uneven first half against a Fordham team missing its leading scorer, then told everyone afterward that it was a good thing.

"I thought we needed a little nervousness going into halftime,'' he said, "and that was good for us, because we had not had that before."

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The Terps had every right to be nervous after scoring just 23 first-half points and making just two of 10 free throws, but they found their rhythm in the second half and never were seriously challenged in their 66-50 victory over the Rams on Thursday night at Xfinity Center.

Now it gets a little more real. The Terps will step up their level of competition when they face Arizona State on Monday in the first game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo. They'll follow that with a game Tuesday against No. 14 Iowa State or Alabama, depending on the outcomes of Monday's games.

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If they Terps can get past the Sun Devils, who were rated as only the ninth-best team in the Pac-12 Conference in the league's preseason coaches' poll, they could get a very stiff test from Iowa State, assuming the Cyclones get past the Crimson Tide.

Senior guard Richaud Pack acknowledges that the Terps are a work in progress but agreed with Turgeon on Thursday night that the Terps are about where they should be this early in the season.

Although the Terps have not faced a major challenge in their first three games, it already seems obvious that they are a more cohesive team than the one that struggled to establish an identity last season and underwent a massive offseason overhaul.

"I think we've been steadily improving,'' Pack said. "I think we're ready for it, and we're just going to have to play basketball how we play defensively and run our offense effectively, and I think we'll be fine."

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