After loss, No. 12 UM takes notes

Caner-Medley: `We just need to learn from it'

College Basketball

December 02, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

If the Maryland Terrapins go on to have a successful basketball season, there will probably be a time when they can recall Tuesday night's loss at Wisconsin as a valuable learning experience.

Twenty minutes after the 69-64 loss was not one of those times.

After a night in which he made just two of 14 shots and one of four free throws, junior point guard John Gilchrist, who always wears his emotions on his sleeve, barely lifted his head to answer reporters' questions.

Sophomore Ekene Ibekwe, who took no solace in having the best game of his college career in a losing effort, also spoke in hushed tones, his answers short and concise.

But a few feet away from Ibekwe, Terps junior forward Nik Caner-Medley was putting the loss into perspective.

"It is what it is," said Caner-Medley, who went up for a potential game-tying three-pointer in the waning seconds but was stripped by the Badgers' Sharif Chambliss.

"There are not too many teams in college basketball that go undefeated these days. We just need to learn from it and improve. It's a long season. Like I said after the Memphis game, when you win a game, you don't get too high and when you lose a game, you don't get too low. You just stay in the middle and you try to get better."

It's not like the 12th-ranked Terps (3-1) have time to dwell on their first loss. They play George Mason in the opening round of the BB&T Classic on Saturday, with a possible matchup with 11th-ranked Michigan State looming the next day.

Some positives can be taken from the loss, starting with the play of Ibekwe, who may have turned in the breakout performance Maryland needed from one of its post players.

With Travis Garrison ailing - he hurt his left knee in the second half and already had a tender left ankle (his status for Saturday is unknown) - Ibekwe was still a mismatch for the Badgers. He scored 21 points, shooting 10-for-13 from the field, had 12 rebounds and blocked two shots, leaving Terps coach Gary Williams to say later, "He really was a force."

Ibekwe was almost solely responsible for the Terps being able to go into a hostile building and still have a chance in the end to beat a disciplined and well-coached team despite not playing particularly well.

"[The loss] definitely can help us," said junior guard Chris McCray. "We can be beaten any given night when we don't come to play. Now, we just have to start back at Step A."

Maryland has plenty of things to work out, as Wisconsin exposed some potential flaws - some of the same ones the Terps battled much of last season.

The Badgers clogged the lane, stopping Gilchrist's penetration and preventing the Terps from getting the ball inside, while also limiting Maryland's transition game.

The result was that Maryland, which shot 42.6 percent from the field and went to the line 13 times (17 fewer than Wisconsin), hoisted too many outside shots and strayed from its normal half-court offense. Poor free-throw shooting, an Achilles' heel last season, showed up again Tuesday, as the Terps hit just seven of 13 from the line and missed several down the stretch.

On defense, the Terps, as they did on occasion last year, struggled to match the athleticism and quickness of the opposition's small forward. Williams tried several different defenders on the Badgers' Alando Tucker, but nothing worked especially well. Tucker scored 27 points and helped put most of the Terps' starting lineup into foul trouble.

Said Williams: "We'll hopefully understand what we have to do and what our goals are, so we'll be ready to play the next game."

Next for Maryland

Matchup: No. 12 Maryland (3-1) vs. George Mason (3-1) in BB&T Classic

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

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

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