TUCSON, Ariz. -- Twice Gary Williams has coached a team in the Fiesta Bowl Classic, and twice he has felt his team was victimized by the officials.
So, after last night's 75-64 loss to Evansville in the consolation game of the tournament, he vowed he would never let it happen again.
"I can never bring a team back here," Williams said afterward. "I apologized to our players after the game. I can't ask players to play under these conditions."
What conditions? How about 63 fouls (30 last night) and seven player disqualifications (three last night) in two games, which never let the Terrapins play their aggressive style of basketball?
The Terrapins (7-3) were also hurt again by poor shooting (23 of 63 from the field for 36.5 percent) against the aggressive man-to-man defense played by Evansville (7-3). But it was the way the game was called that the team pointed to as the key to its second straight loss.
"I've never fouled out in back-to-back games in my life," said Walt Williams, who was whistled for his fifth with 2 minutes 31 seconds left and Maryland down by eight. "When I got into foul trouble I had to back off and make adjustments to my game so I wouldn't foul out. As you see, it didn't mean too much."
The Terrapins started the game slowly and trailed by as many as 58-36 with just under eight minutes left in the game. But the team gained composure and, with Evers Burns scoring nine of his 15 points in a five-minute span, pulled to within 60-48 with 3:45 left.
Then Williams, who struggled the entire tournament (18 points last night, 12 on Saturday) began to heat up. After Evansville's Chaka Chandler hit a free throw to make it 61-48, Williams hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to pull the Terrapins to within 61-51.
After Parrish Casebier (28 points) hit two free throws to increase the Evansville lead to 12, Williams was fouled while hitting a three-pointer. His free throw with 2:59 left made it 63-55 -- the closest Maryland had been since midway through the first half.
But any chance of a Maryland comeback disappeared 28 seconds later when Williams was whistled for charging while penetrating and passing off to Burns. With no real leadership on the court, Maryland never posed a threat the rest of the way.
"It was very frustrating because we were starting to make a run and my shot was beginning to fall," Williams said. "It was just a tough and frustrating tournament for me personally."
And tough for the team, which now must prepare for Sunday's Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Georgia Tech. That leaves less than a week to correct a serious shooting problem. Playing against a smaller Evansville team, the Terrapins managed seven of 33 field goals in the first half (21.2 percent). With Williams, the only outside threat, hitting two of 10 from the field in the half, it's no wonder the Terrapins fell behind by as many as 19 in the first 20 minutes.
"Give Evansville credit, they came out and took it to us," Gary Williams said. "We created problems for ourselves because we shot terrible."
But Williams was pleased by the way his team came back in the last part of the game.
"We can play in our league the way we played the last 10 minutes," he said. "We just have to play like that for 40 minutes."
Forty minutes, something Williams felt his team was unable to do in this tournament. He held his tongue after his team was whistled for 33 fouls and had four players foul out -- both tournament records -- on Saturday. But, since he's not going to spend the week after Christmas in Tuscon again, last night he let his frustration flow after he watched 30 fouls called against his team (19 were called against Evansville) and had three players disqualified.
"I want thank the [sponsors]. The people here do as good a job of running a tournament as I have seen [and] the hospitality was tremendous," said Williams, who, while coaching Boston College here in 1985, became the only coach to be ejected from the tournament. "Unfortunately, that game was the worst exhibition of officiating I've been involved with."
He admitted that they were his most frustrating back-to-back games. And it won't happen again -- at least not in Tuscon.
"The way it was called it was hard for our players to be aggressive," Williams said. "Every time we moved, we fouled. I just can't have my team playing in these conditions."