Misfires leave Terps at a loss, 82-68

No. 17 Gonzaga hands UM first defeat

Terps shoot 35.7 percent at BB&T

December 07, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - At some point, the Maryland Terrapins will start making some shots, right?

Sophomore point guard John Gilchrist sat at his locker yesterday, staring ahead blankly, digesting Maryland's first loss, wondering aloud when the problem will subside.

"I have no idea what's going on. We're battling something that we can't see. We need to become a better shooting team," Gilchrist said. "Sometimes, we find ourselves thinking too much. We need to just relax and play our game."

The Terps did numerous things wrong while getting drilled by No. 17 Gonzaga, 82-68, in the opening round of the BB&T Classic before 13,609 at MCI Center. The loss put Maryland into today's consolation game against West Virginia.

But any other mistakes paled in comparison to Maryland's shooting ineptitude, which is now extending into maddening territory. Whether from the perimeter or at the free-throw line, the Terps (4-1) can't put the ball in the basket.

Gonzaga righted itself after a sloppy first half, got a huge game from senior point guard Blake Stepp, took the Terps apart defensively in the second half and rained threes from all over the court. Meanwhile, Maryland's lack of touch left its fans sitting on their hands and kept its offense stuck in the garage.

This was brutal for coach Gary Williams to watch. Consider that Gonzaga, led by Stepp's game-highs of 27 points and 11 assists and a tournament-record seven three-pointers, was more proficient shooting from three-point range than Maryland was from the foul line. The Bulldogs made 13 of 23 threes (56.5 percent). The Terps made just 14 of 27 free-throw attempts (51.9 percent).

Maryland had yet to find its outside stroke throughout its 4-0 start, and its misery intensified yesterday, to the tune of 4-for-20 shooting from beyond the arc. In all, the Terps shot a season-low 35.7 percent from the field.

Through its first five games, Maryland is shooting 44.2 percent overall, 24.1 percent from three-point range and 54.5 percent at the foul line.

"Right now, we're depending on our defense to break balls loose and score. You have to run plays and run offense to score. I thought we got jump-shot happy early," Williams said. "There are shots every guy in the locker room can make. You've got to make them. There's no mystery to shooting free throws. How does [a slump] happen? I don't know."

It didn't matter that Maryland made two threes early, that sophomore guard Chris McCray, sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley and freshman guard Mike Jones each made their first three-point attempts.

It didn't matter that Maryland forced 24 Gonzaga turnovers, including 16 in the first half, and scored the last nine points of the first half to take a 34-30 lead at halftime. And it didn't matter that the Terps worked doggedly enough on the boards to grab 21 offensive rebounds.

Maryland missed too many shots to put its full-court press to effective use. Its half-court offense stumbled against the Bulldogs' 2-3 zone with questionable shots, and the Terps could not take advantage of their clear looks at the rim. Maryland missed 13 of its last 15 three-point attempts, went through a first-half stretch of 10:11 with a field goal, and opened the second half by shooting 2-for-12.

By that point, Gonzaga, bursting with senior leadership, confidence and toughness, was delivering a knockout blow to youthful Maryland, which surrendered a 17-5 run to open the second half and found itself in a 47-39 hole with 14:39 left. The Bulldogs would stretch their lead to as much as 78-61 with 2:21 to go.

"I thought we were really soft [in the first half]," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "[Maryland] poked the ball away from us 10 or 11 times, man on man. I don't think we were making decisions very quickly and we weren't swinging the ball."

The Bulldogs didn't miss much in the second half, as they shot 60 percent. Stepp scored 17 of his points after halftime. Senior forward Kyle Bankhead finished with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.

And freshman forward Adam Morrison gave Gonzaga a major lift by coming off the bench to relieve injured forward Ronny Turiaf (ankle) to score a career-high 18 points and grab seven rebounds. Morrison is diabetic, and he took two insulin shots during the contest. He made seven of 11 shots, and led an inside game that produced 20 second-half points in the paint, after collecting only four in the first half.

Caner-Medley led Maryland with 16 points, but missed four of five three-point attempts. Senior center Jamar Smith, who was in foul trouble in the first half, finished with 13 points and seven rebounds and had his string of four consecutive double doubles ended. Gilchrist (11 points) shot 5-for-14. McCray had his best, all-around game of the season with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals, but went 1-for-6 from beyond the arc.

The Terps' day was perhaps best captured when freshman guard D.J. Strawberry missed a breakaway jam, got fouled, then made only one of two free throws to cut the Gonzaga lead to 72-61 with 4:37 left. Maryland then failed to cover Stepp on consecutive possessions, and he made back-to-back threes to punch out the Terps, who gave up 52 points in the second half.

BB&T Classic

Site: MCI Center, Washington

Today's consolation: Maryland (4-1) vs. West Virginia (2-2), 3 p.m.

Today's final: George Washington (5-1) vs. No. 17 Gonzaga (5-1), 5:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Both games on Ch. 54. Maryland game on WBAL (1090 AM)

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