Gary Williams surely knew there would be uncomfortable stretches like this. With his senior guards having graduated, the Maryland coach must have foreseen nights when his new backcourt would struggle and the home crowd would grow fidgety as an underdog opponent threatened to ruin the Terps' evening.
One of those anxiety-producing periods occurred Friday night as undersized Elon used 3-pointers to take a halftime lead before succumbing to Maryland's size and athleticism in a 76-57 Terrapins victory. Forward-center Jordan Williams scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half to lead Maryland. Elon simply couldn't match up with Williams, Maryland's tallest starter.
Williams had no explanation for his or the team's slow start. "It's frustrating. If I knew that today, I might be the head coach. We're going to figure out why we're starting so slow."
Last season, it was the poise, talent and experience of Maryland's senior guards -- Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes -- that inspired opponents' fear and respect. This season, Maryland's backcourt blend of Adrian Bowie, Sean Mosley, Cliff Tucker and freshmen Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard is a work in progress. At this stage of their development, they don't control a game in the same way.
No Maryland guard converted a field goal in the game until Stoglin's 3-pointer with 8:36 left in the first half. The Terps trailed 24-16 at that point. The Phoenix, which moved up to Division I in 1999-2000, led 34-31 at the half. More than half (17 of 31) of Elon's field-goal attempts came from beyond the arc in the first half.
"We were very fortunate to be down three at halftime instead of 15," Maryland coach Gary Williams said.
The coach said his team, which has had difficulty at the beginning of a number of games, needs to learn how to play for 40 minutes. "We didn't do that tonight, and that bothers me," he said. "I didn't like the way we handled things early on, but we got better."
But Elon couldn't contain Jordan Williams in the second half. With Maryland leading 43-39, the sophomore reached back and slammed home a dunk on a feed from Bowie. His follow-up shot on Maryland's next possession made it 47-39.
Williams made eight of his 10 field-goal attempts after halftime.
"He turned the tide," Elon coach Matt Matheny said of Williams. "He's the best talent on the floor. He's got unbelievable hands, and I think that's what makes him such a great player."
Bowie was also instrumental in Maryland's comeback. After a difficult first half (1-for-5 shooting), the senior was a second-half spark, finishing with 14 points, seven assists and eight rebounds.
Bowie had zero turnovers in 35 minutes. He said he could not remember a game in which he played so much without turning it over. "Once I was able to get the ball into Jordan, everything started to open up," said Bowie, who shot 4-for-6 in the second half.
The Terps also did a better job defending the arc in the second half. Elon, led by freshman Jack Isenbarger (23 points) shot 3-for-16 on 3-point attempts in the second half. The Phoenix had made six 3-pointers in taking its first-half lead.
Maryland, which plays at Penn State on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, has won 14 straight at home. The Terps are 73-7 in nonconference games at Comcast Center.