Terps admit effort wasn't their finest

After Clemson `setback,' players, coach look ahead

College Basketball

February 05, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland junior forward Travis Garrison acknowledged yesterday that the Terrapins didn't play as hard as they could have Tuesday in a 15-point loss at Clemson. Mike Grinnon, the lone scholarship senior and a team captain, said the Terps are still searching for both their identity and a comfortable team chemistry.

Such issues seem severe for a team that has only eight regular-season games left and is about to start the second half of its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule today at Miami. But if the 22nd-ranked Terps are worried, they certainly aren't letting on.

Before finishing preparations for Miami and boarding a flight yesterday afternoon, Maryland coach Gary Williams said his team, which is 13-6 overall and 4-4 in the conference, is in a "very good situation."

"We played [Nos.] 2, 3 and 4 on the road. Nobody else has done that," said Williams, referring to his team's 1-2 record last month against Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina. "Let's go play the last eight. Nobody is making any decisions on who is doing what at the end of the year right now. That's up to the games to decide that. Until that's decided, I think we have a very good situation right now where we can get to where we want to get to."

Grinnon, who seemed both surprised and amused by reporters' questions that focused on the inconsistency of the team, pointed out that the Terps were 3-5 in the ACC at this time last year before winning the conference tournament.

"The last game was a little bit of a setback ... but you have to look at the big picture," said Grinnon, who called today's game against the Hurricanes the biggest of the season. "I keep saying it, but it's not a bad time right now. We are 4-4, we're right in the middle of the hunt and I think guys are focused and ready to play."

That wasn't the case Tuesday against the Tigers, a game that prompted Garrison to say yesterday, "I don't think we gave it our all."

Williams, however, came to the defense of his team yesterday, revealing that three of his five starters (Will Bowers, Chris McCray and Nik Caner-Medley) were sick with the flu and a key reserve, Ekene Ibekwe, had to get a tooth pulled the next day when the Terps returned to College Park.

"We weren't in very good shape," Williams said. "That's not something I like to talk about, but I am defending our players because they've been criticized for the way they played. We had two guys throwing up all night before the game. ... I just don't like to make excuses. No matter what shape you're in, you have to be ready to play. We didn't do a good job getting ready to play, but there were extenuating circumstances."

Williams, who was happy with how the team practiced Thursday, said everybody should be healthy for today's game at the Convocation Center in Coral Gables, Fla. The Terps' task will be to contain Miami's three starting guards - Guillermo Diaz, Robert Hite and Anthony Harris - who combine to score just less than 50 points a game for the Hurricanes (13-7, 4-5).

Maryland hasn't played the first-year ACC member since 1970, but the Terps sure don't travel to Miami lacking in confidence.

"We'll be in there for the game, we are going to get the win and we are going to be out of there in less than a day," said Grinnon.

NOTE: Sophomore guard D.J. Strawberry, whose season ended when he tore a ligament in his right knee in practice last month, will have surgery Friday now that the swelling has subsided.

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