Surprisingly strong guard play, J. Williams, pressing defense are boosting Maryland early in season

Gary Williams met the media at Comcast Center on Sunday wearing his usual expression, as if someone had just rear-ended his car.

Moments earlier, his Maryland Terrapins had improved their record to 3-0 with an 89-59 pasting of Maine.

Now Williams was being asked how good this Maryland team could be, and his answers invariably came down to this: Who knows? It's only November.

"Nobody's where they want to be on Nov. 14," the Terps coach said. "You have to keep improving."

OK, to his credit, Williams didn't want to make too much of a blowout win over a team from the weaker America East Conference.

But without going overboard, here are a few storylines beginning to emerge about this Maryland team:

No. 1: The Terps' guard play could be a pleasant surprise.

Sure, Maryland lost the great Greivis Vasquez and his sidekick, Eric Hayes, to graduation.

But senior Adrian Bowie is showing a lot of potential at point guard. He finished with nine points, five assists, eight rebounds and no turnovers against Maine and was great at getting everyone involved in the offense.

OK, junior Sean Mosley (St. Frances) is in a mini slump (zero points Sunday, three in the Terps' 75-74 win over the College of Charleston on Wednesday).

But highly touted freshman backups Terrell Stoglin (14 points) and Pe'Shon Howard (five) show tremendous promise.

Stoglin has an ankle-breaking cross-over dribble, and Howard has a spin move that almost put two Maine defenders in traction. Stoglin and Howard are fearless in taking it to the hole or popping from the outside.

No. 2: Sophomore forward Jordan Williams is scary good -- so good people are talking about his bolting to the NBA after this season.

He finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Maine, his fifth straight doubledouble dating to last season. Joe Smith in 1995 was the last Terp to do that.

"You get doubledoubles, you're doing something right," Gary Williams said.

The kid has great hands. I mean Derrick Mason-like or Anquan Boldin-ish hands.

Late in the first half, Jordan Williams caught a no-look pass in heavy traffic from senior swingman Cliff Tucker on a fast break that was a work of art, switching it from one hand to the other before laying the ball in softly with two Maine defenders all over him.

"That was the thing that appealed to me the first time I saw him," Gary Williams said of Jordan Williams' hands. "He was about 285 pounds and out of shape. But every time they threw him the ball -- they didn't throw to him much; this was in the summertime, and inside guys don't get the ball in the summertime -- he never dropped it.

"You see a lot of guys who look like great basketball players, but they can't finish. They can't take the ball up and score. Jordan can do that."

No. 3: The Terps will press more this year than they have in recent seasons.

OK, fine, Maine came out looking a little tired, or a little flat, or whatever you want to call it.

And no wonder. Who was the sadist who arranged the Black Bears' early-season schedule?

They played Friday night at Utah Valley in Orem, Utah -- not exactly next door to their campus -- where they held on for a grueling 71-66 win in overtime.

Then they jumped on a plane the next day and flew five hours across the country to College Park.

Think that might wear on you a little?

But the Terps' relentless full-court pressure was a bigger problem for the Bears than jetlag.

At times, it was suffocating.

"I really believe in it," Gary Williams said. "It's a great way to play. We press every day in practice."

Said Bowie: "I'd say we practice it at least 30 minutes every day. We have a lot of speed on our team and a lot of athletes. So we have to do what we do best."

Get this: Williams said that during his first year of coaching at American, his team pressed from the opening tip to the end of the game -- all season.

Times have changed. But don't think he wouldn't like to do the same thing with this team.

So now the Terps take on fifth-ranked Pittsburgh on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer national rounds, another tournament that just rolls off the tongue.

Then they'll play either 13th-ranked Illinois or Texas the following night at the Garden.

It's all part of getting ready for the season, Gary Williams said. And that's all it is.

"Whatever you do in November, if you lose in March, it doesn't matter," he said.

In college basketball today, March is always the focus.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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