Terps looking to climb new ramp on busy road

FSU is chance to end road skid, blown leads

January 29, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Maryland basketball team has had about 40 hours to grow up.

The No. 22 Terrapins (13-6, 2-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) continue their grueling road trip at Florida State today, their second league game in three days, and will be looking for a similar quick turnaround in eliminating their youthful second-half mistakes.

Starting just one upperclassman, Maryland has transformed into one of the most welcomed visitors in the ACC this season, losing all three of its road games after surrendering halftime leads. The Terps watched their seven-point halftime advantage dissolve into a 75-63 loss to North Carolina on Thursday and are in danger of dropping their first four road games for the first time since 1991-92.

It was only a year ago, though, when a more seasoned Maryland club set a school record with six league road victories and won all 26 games that it led at the break.

"It's time for us to step up and play well on the road," coach Gary Williams said. "Sure, it's different than at home. You travel, you're in a hotel and when you're introduced, you don't have that support system there. But we're no different than any other team."

Although Williams contends that excuses are only for losing teams, his Terps will be at a disadvantage today as Florida State should be more rested and ready.

After its loss Thursday, Maryland took an hour bus ride back to Greensboro and jetted down to Florida State that night, arriving at the hotel yesterday morning. Williams then conducted his first cram session of the ACC season, packing in his usual two days of preparation into one normal practice yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Seminoles coach Steve Robinson, whose team (8-9, 3-3) hasn't competed since losing Wednesday at Virginia, had enough free time for a speaking engagement yesterday morning.

"We're 2-4 right now [in the ACC]," said Maryland guard Juan Dixon, who is averaging 23.7 points over his past three games. "We have to get a win Saturday. This is a big game for us."

Chalk up the road losses to inexperience.

When the Terrapins traveled to North Carolina State on Jan. 6, they didn't defend a high screen with 1.3 seconds left. That gave State's Justin Gainey an opening for the game-winning jumper.

When Maryland visited Georgia Tech nine days later, the Terps failed to attempt a shot in the final 15 seconds while trailing 69-68. And when it arrived at North Carolina, Maryland took nearly half of its shots from behind the arc (27 of 61) despite being the next-to-worst three-point shooting team in the ACC.

In their three ACC games at Cole Field House, the Terrapins have committed only an average of 13 turnovers. Put them in front of a hostile crowd and they have turned the ball over 18.7 times in their three losses.

Get the jittery picture?

Still, Maryland won't feel too uneasy at the Tallahassee Leon County Civic Center, the ACC's most apathetic basketball environment. Fans in this area circle the second weekend in March for the start of spring football, not the ACC tournament.

The Terps have made themselves comfortable here, winning five of eight meetings in Tallahassee, the only ACC road site where they have a winning edge all-time. Recently, Maryland has won six straight over the Seminoles, also its best current streak against any league opponent.

The Seminoles, however, did pry away some attention from their national champion football team when they upset North Carolina on Jan. 22. Unlike Maryland two days ago, Florida State did not collapse to the Tar Heels in the second half.

Predicted to finish second-to-last in the ACC by most publications, Florida State has discovered some chemistry with forwards Ron Hale and junior college transfer Damous Anderson. The tandem has accounted for 31.7 points and is the main reason why the Seminoles top the league in three-point percentage.

But the pressure is not on Florida State, which hasn't won more than six ACC games in a season since 1993. Maryland, however, isn't ready to panic yet.

"It's not a big thing," Maryland forward Terence Morris said of being winless on the road. "Sometimes we have defensive lapses. Teams seem to take advantage of that."

Road tripping

It's only the fifth time in coach Gary Williams' 11 seasons at Maryland that the Terrapins have played two Atlantic Coast Conference road games in three days. Maryland, which plays at Florida State today, is 1-3 in games ending those trips.

Date Site Result

1-11-92 N.C. State L, 94-88

1-13-92 N. Carolina L, 96-76

2-20-92 Duke L, 91-89

2-22-92 Clemson L, 82-70

2-10-94 N. Carolina L, 95-89

2-12-94 Florida State W, 69-66

2-22-96 N.C. State W, 86-84

2-24-96 Clemson L, 68-61

1-27-00 N. Carolina L, 75-63

1-29-00 Florida State

Terps today

Opponent: Florida State

Site: Leon County Civic Center, Tallahassee, Fla.

When: 1: 30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

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