Back to square one for Terps after 2nd straight loss, 78-77

West Virginia exposes weaknesses at both ends in overtime BB&T win

College Basketball

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

WASHINGTON - The emotional high they rode after that overtime victory over Wisconsin has evaporated, leaving the Maryland Terrapins to start all over again after swallowing a painful, two-day lesson.

All Maryland learned after a disappointing outing in the BB&T Classic was it has many leaks to plug in its up-and-down game. One day after missing endless shots, yielding too many open shots and getting spanked by No. 17 Gonzaga, the Terps tumbled to an early-season low yesterday at MCI Center, where West Virginia did the honors by torching Maryland's perimeter defense.

The Mountaineers shot the ball with Gonzaga-like expertise by converting 13 three-point baskets, led for nearly the entire contest, held off a determined, second-half Maryland rally, then showed the type of poise that eluded the Terps by coming from behind in overtime and hanging on for a 78-77 victory.

The loss capped a humbling weekend for Maryland, which sputtered to a fourth-place finish by getting swept for the first time in the nine-year history of the BB&T event, and did not land a single player on the all-tournament team.

The Terps are not exactly in a confident frame of mind as they prepare for their first road test against powerful Florida on Wednesday. For starters, they surrendered 26 three-pointers over the weekend, and eight different Mountaineers burned them from beyond the arc.

That rubbed out the progress made yesterday by Maryland's offense, which produced 49.2 percent shooting and 46.2 percent three-point efficiency, both season highs.

"You're sky-high after Wisconsin. We're not so high right now. It's our job to get up by Wednesday," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Our problem is trying to get all of the players to play at the same level all of the time. There's not a smoothness yet that we need to get to. There's no excuses. It's on me to make that happen."

With No. 1 Kansas losing to Stanford on Saturday, the Terps (4-2) most likely will be facing the top-ranked team in the Gators. The revised Top 25 rankings will be released today, and Maryland probably has squandered a chance to break into the poll after beating No. 15 Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Poll position is the last thing on the mind of Williams, who once again was denied his 300th victory at Maryland. On a day when the Terps at least proved they could shoot the ball, they continued to play in too many spurts - good and mostly bad.

From the outset, Maryland lacked fire and looked confused and impatient in trying to solve West Virginia's 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone defenses. The Terps took a 4-2 lead, lost it and never got it back until forward Nik Caner-Medley put his team in front 69-66 by converting a three-point play 26 seconds into the extra period.

The rest of the overtime presented a flurry of what-ifs for Maryland.

What if Caner-Medley had made a put-back to give the Terps a 71-68 lead with under four minutes left? What if center Jamar Smith had controlled a rebound after apparently being fouled on the baseline with 20 seconds left and the Terps down by 76-72? What if Smith had kicked out a pass to an open three-point shooter instead of settling for a follow-up that finished the game's scoring with 1.5 seconds left?

"I didn't think about kicking it out. I was just trying to hurry up and score as quick as possible," said Smith, who finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds, both team highs.

"We didn't work hard for periods of the game, and that's what got us today," said Williams, who watched the Terps come back from a seemingly hopeless situation to force overtime. "It wasn't any one thing. Our three-point defense stinks. We've got a lot to work on."

After surrendering five three-point baskets early in the second half - three in a row by backup guard Patrick Beilein (11 points) - the Terps were on the verge of getting routed, trailing 61-45 with 13:41 to go.

Maryland then caught fire for the first time by forcing four turnovers in 14-0 run that cut the margin to 61-59 with 7:40 left. The Terps finally caught the Mountaineers when guard Chris McCray (16 points, seven assists, four steals) hit the second of two free throws to tie the game at 66 with 16 seconds left in regulation.

West Virginia, after reeling down the stretch by scoring only five points in the final 13:41, regained its composure by making nine of 12 free throws in overtime.

Caner-Medley scored a season-low six points for Maryland. Forward Travis Garrison had 11. Point guard John Gilchrist had 15 points, seven assists and a season-high eight turnovers.

"When you go down by 16," Williams said, "you play a certain way. When you come back from 16 down, you play a certain way. That [comeback] was out of desperation. That's not how you play basketball. We have to decide which team we want to be."

Next for Terps

Matchup: No. 2 Florida (5-0) vs. Maryland (4-2)

Site:O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.

When:Wednesday, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio:ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

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