ATLANTA -- Even in the best of times, Alexander Memorial Coliseum has not been kind to the Maryland basketball team. The so-called Thrillerdome has provided few thrills, and even fewer victories, for the Terrapins.
These are not the best of times for Maryland.
And this was not the best of places for the Terps to come to cure what ails them these days. Maryland's problems, here and in general, continued yesterday with a crushing, 92-67 defeat to 15th-ranked Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.
The defeat was the third straight for the Terps since their 7-1 start, and marked the 11th consecutive season Maryland has lost to the Yellow Jackets on their home court. Moreover, it was the largest margin of defeat since coach Gary Williams came back to Maryland two seasons ago.
"I thought we played well the first 18 minutes. We showed good patience. . . . In the second half, I thought they were able to control the game inside a lot more than they did in the first half," said Williams. "Of course, they shot well. They did a good job with their offense."
Georgia Tech (11-2, 1-0) was 34 of 62 from the field -- including 20 of 30 from its starting frontcourt -- but the Terps continued to shoot poorly (29 of 74). It marked the sixth straight game Maryland shot under 50 percent, and the second straight the Terps were under 40 percent.
"We took a lot of tough shots," said senior guard Walt Williams, who finished 13 of 23 from the field and scored a game-high 28 points. "The first half we did a good job getting easy shots, but the second half we tried to create shots."
Maryland played well early, jumping out to leads of 15-9 and 17-12, before the Yellow Jackets settled into their offense. With the Terps still leading, 33-31, after a baseline jumper by Williams with less than four minutes left in the first half, Georgia Tech scored nine straight points and eventually led at the half 44-37.
With Georgia Tech leading 52-43 four minutes into the second half, a steal by Jon Barry off an inbounds pass by Williams started a 19-9 run by the Yellow Jackets. After two straight baskets by Williams, including his first three-pointer of the game, cut the deficit to 71-59, Georgia Tech scored on its next 10 possessions.
"In the second half, I thought we really played some great defense," said Tech coach Bobby Cremins, whose team has won five straight. "We got a little tired. I thought our two freshmen [Travis Best and James Forrest] really played well. We're getting there. It was an excellent win. Maryland's a lot better team than they showed today."
All five starters scored in double figures for the Yellow Jackets. Senior center Matt Geiger led Georgia Tech with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Best had 17. Tech's frontcourt, the biggest in the ACC, outscored Maryland's 48-35 and out-rebounded it 30-16 (48-33 overall). The Yellow Jackets also blocked nine shots.
Said Geiger: "We're a big team, with me [7 feet 1, 251 pounds], James Forrest [6-8, 255] and Malcolm Mackey [6-11, 248]. Hopefully, we can use our size to our advantage. When Travis and Jon are hitting their shots, we can be tough. Today, we were finishing our plays, and it looked very good."
Georgia Tech hit nine three-pointers (in 24 attempts), and
Maryland missed 11 of 13. Garfield Smith was 0-for-6 on three-pointers, five of 18 overall and missed all eight shots he took in the second half. Junior guard Kevin McLinton attempted only one shot the entire first half, missed all six he took for the game, and three were blocked.
"He's got to score," Gary Williams said of McLinton. "He was tentative. But he's had some great games for us in the past, and I'm confident that he'll have some great games in the future."
Said McLinton: "I did some things that I normally don't do. I was holding back. I was ready to play at the beginning of the game, but I backed off a little. I'll be ready to play against Duke."
After three straight losses on the road, Maryland will be happy to get home for Wednesday night's game against top-ranked Duke. Despite eight straight defeats to the Blue Devils, and 14 losses in their past 15 games, the Terps generally have played well against them at Cole Field House.
"This time of year, we have to feel we can go home and do a great job against Duke," said Gary Williams. "Last year, we got bombed by Georgia Tech here and beat them at home three weeks later. Playing at home is very important for us."
Said Geiger: "Maryland's a tough team. They're going to be ready when we come to their place later in the season. They're going to be rocking and rolling."
For now, Maryland is only reeling.