Maryland hasn't lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament in thirteen years. After beating the Houston Cougars 89-77 tonight in Spokane, the streak has been extended to fourteen.
Aubrey Coleman was as sensational as advertised and dropped 26, but his prolific output ultimately had a minimal impact on the game. Instead, it was Jordan Williams and Landon Milbourne that stepped up and led Maryland to another NCAA tournament first round victory. Williams was absolutely sensational against a weak Houston front line, leading Maryland with 21 points and 17 rebounds. Milbourne had another strong comeback game, showcasing renewed confidence with the mid-range jumper and in the post while dropping 19 points.
Greivis Vasquez was mostly quiet - by his standards; "just" 16 points - which was unexpected, and he failed to pass Len Bias on the Maryland all-time points leader lists, but he'll get another day to do it against Michigan State on Sunday at 2:40 EST.
Houston got plenty of help from officials; during the second half especially, they got to the line at will. Luckily for Maryland, though, free throw shooting is not a strength of the Coogs; they shot just 20-32 from the stripe. Meanwhile, Maryland dominated the boards (a huge 47-27 advantage) to overcome a turnover-heavy start and come away with the win.
The rebounding effort all around was encouraging, but it is important to remember that Houston is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country, so don't get too excited. Any way you slice Jordan Williams' performance, though, it was no less than spectacular. If there were any questions about his legitimacy as a monstrous big man, they have been answered.
The entire team performance was great, actually. Houston doesn't play much defense, so putting up 89 isn't as impressive as it might seem, but holding them to 77, on the other hand, is a bit of a feat. Maryland's slow start was somewhat expected given the time off, and that they were able to overcome it was exciting.
Maryland takes on Michigan State on Sunday, which at this point is tomorrow. I'll have the First Look in a few hours, and try to set up a quick Q&A if possible.