Maryland licks its Clemson wounds

Stagnant in upset loss, Terps look ahead to Miami

College Basketball

February 03, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

CLEMSON, S.C. - As if Maryland hadn't learned the lesson enough over the past season and a half, the Terps were reminded again Tuesday night what happens when they get away from what they do best.

An unsettling 88-73 loss to Clemson, which had only one Atlantic Coast Conference win before Tuesday, was just as much about a lack of execution - both offensively and defensively - as it was about a lack of effort and emotion.

"I thought we settled early for outside shots, and that hurt us," said Terps coach Gary Williams, who at one point of the second half called a timeout during an offensive possession and admonished his team for not running a set correctly. "We're not the greatest three-point shooting team as we again proved [Tuesday night], going 2-for-11. We have to know our strengths and our weaknesses. I think we went away from our strengths."

From the opening tip, quickly falling behind 10-0, the 22nd-ranked Terps (13-6, 4-4 ACC) were stagnant offensively, relying too often on one-on-one play rather than ball movement. Maryland managed 39 percent shooting and was held without a field goal for the last 6:37 of the first half, missing its last 13 shots.

On defense, Maryland, which had held two of the league's top offensive teams - Duke and Georgia Tech - to less than 34 percent shooting, allowed Clemson to shoot 50 percent and, as it did earlier this season, looked a step slow. Last year at Clemson, Williams said the Terps wouldn't have beaten the Tigers without the efforts of Hassan Fofana, a physical, 6-foot-10, 280-pound center, who helped Maryland combat the Tigers' aggressiveness inside.

But Fofana transferred to Loyola in December and the Tigers' 6-9 forward Sharrod Ford (25 points, 10 rebounds) pretty much did as he pleased on Tuesday night, fouling out both Travis Garrison and Ekene Ibekwe around the midpoint of the second half.

Now, the Terps, who head to Miami on Saturday, are again a team that needs to regroup. The victories in the past week over Duke and Georgia Tech appeared to be a statement that the Terps had ditched their inconsistent ways. Tuesday was an indication that isn't the case and they might still be searching for their identity.

Even the players seem confounded by how they can beat Duke and Georgia Tech, two teams that played in the Final Four last season, and then lose to the ACC's last-place team.

"It's just one of those things we just have to keep working on," said junior guard Chris McCray. "We have to come back [today], start thinking about Miami and try to get a win down there."

That won't be easy. The Hurricanes (13-7, 4-5 ACC), led by point guard Guillermo Diaz, who averages a league-leading 23.3 points in ACC play, have one of the most explosive backcourts in the country and are 10-3 at home this season.

Williams acknowledged the Terps' league schedule "goes our way the second eight games" and Saturday will be an important start for a team that is still trying to solidify itself as an NCAA tournament team, and trying to stay in the top five of the ACC to avoid a first-round game in the league tournament.

"This is definitely a setback, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a long season," said junior point guard John Gil- christ. "You're going to take two steps forward, you might take a step back. But you've just got to keep fighting, you've got to keep on moving. You've got to keep grinding, keep trying to win, keep getting better."

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