Coach rubs in pain of Va. loss

`Hope it hurts for 2 1/2 days,' Terps' Williams says of rare home setback to Cavs

UM visits Ga. Tech, 10-0 at home

Late letdown, blown lead add to irritation of loss

February 08, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland Terrapins concluded the first half of their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule by failing to finish an important job against Virginia, and Terps coach Gary Williams wants his team to feel the pain deeply.

Thursday's 86-78 upset loss to the unranked Cavaliers gave the Terps much to swallow.

By blowing a 12-point, second-half lead primarily due to Virginia's superb three-point shooting, by failing to score a basket for a late nine-minute stretch, by watching the Cavaliers obliterate a 69-59 deficit over the game's final 9:06, the No. 8 Terps wasted a precious opportunity to beat Virginia for the 10th straight time at home.

The loss dropped Maryland into a first-place tie in the league standings with Wake Forest. It marked Maryland's first ACC defeat at home since Feb. 14, 2001, when Florida State handed the Terps their final setback before advancing to the school's first Final Four. It was also the Terps' first defeat to a team currently unranked.

And during a season in which road victories are excruciatingly tough to come by, Maryland (14-5, 6-2) became the first ACC team among the league's top six schools to lose to a conference opponent on its home court. The league is now 28-8 at home in conference play.

The Terps, who have now lost more games than last year's NCAA championship team, next play tomorrow at Georgia Tech, which is 10-0 at home. That commences a stretch that sends the Terps on the road for three of their next four games. Five of Maryland's remaining eight conference games are away from Comcast Center.

"I hope it hurts [his players] for 2 1/2 days. I hope it really hurts," Williams said of the late collapse against Virginia. "I hope they think about it 24 hours a day, 60 minutes an hour. I hope they don't put it behind them until the ball gets thrown up at Georgia Tech.

"I think there's a tendency when you come from behind and you get the lead, you think you did what you had to do to win the game. You pay for that, especially this year in college basketball. We played the last nine minutes like we played early in the game. We got the lead and gave them some open looks. We fell down a little bit defensively and couldn't put the ball in the basket."

Maryland, which spotted Virginia an early 33-20 lead, rubbed it out with a 17-2 run, then surrendered the final basket of the first half to trail at the break 47-45 -the most first-half points allowed by the Terps this season. They seemed to regain control by opening the second half with a 13-2 burst.

During that surge, Maryland forced turnovers and consistently got the ball inside, where senior center Ryan Randle scored all of his eight second-half points, as the Terps took a 58-49 lead. They extended the lead to 65-53 with 12:46 left, and that's when Virginia's explosive bench took over.

During the next nine minutes, Virginia sophomore reserve guards Jermaine Harper and Devin Smith, a junior-college transfer, doused the home crowd and stunned the Terps with a combined six three-pointers, with Smith hitting four of them before finishing with a team-high 17 points.

Maryland went cold at the worst time. After an 18-footer by freshman forward Travis Garrison gave the Terps a 69-59 lead with 9:06 to go, the Terps did not record a basket for nine minutes. Maryland shot just 36.4 percent in the second half.

"When we got that lead, I thought we were going to come away with the win if we played hard and executed," said point guard Steve Blake, who had a game-high six turnovers to go with 12 points and five assists. "Some of us got lazy, I guess. It hurts. I'm going to be upset for the next couple of days. I've got to use that anger to make my team better. I'm not quite sure what happened."

What happened was a Maryland team that prides itself on depth got whipped by a deeper squad on a disheartening night.

Virginia's bench outscored Maryland's, 43-18. Part of that was due to brief appearances by backups Jamar Smith and Chris McCray, who were two key contributors to Maryland's 7-1 January record. They played a combined seven minutes on Thursday.

The Cavaliers, showing little drop-off without suspended point guard Keith Jenifer, protected the ball in crunch time, scored inside effectively with center Travis Watson and bombed the Terps with 12 three-pointers, the most allowed this year by Maryland.

"Virginia hit big shots, open shots, and we didn't. But we didn't compete at times. That's the most frustrating thing," senior forward Tahj Holden said.

"I think we've been into the season long enough to know everyone is going to play hard against us. But there's no reason they should play harder than us. We had a chance to put ourselves in a good position. Now, we're scratching and clawing again."

Next for Terps

Matchup:No. 8 Maryland (14-5) vs. Georgia Tech (11-8)

Site:Alexander Memorial Coliseum, Atlanta

When:Tomorrow, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio:Chs. 13, 9/WBAL (1090 AM)

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