RALEIGH, N.C. - It was clear that Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams wanted his message to be heard.
After the 22nd-ranked Terrapins' 82-63 defeat at North Carolina State on Wednesday night, Williams took the podium and first fielded a couple of questions about how well the Wolfpack played. As always, his answers seemed honest and direct.
Then he was asked about the peaks and valleys that have dominated this season in College Park, and Williams seemingly had his opening.
"You ask the players," said Williams. "This is on the players. I worked hard to get ready for this game. You ask the players why they weren't ready to play."
A Maryland athletic department official then asked if there were any more questions, an inquiry that usually marks an end to Williams' question-and-answer sessions.
However, the Terps' coach made it known that he was more than willing to take more questions - "No, that's all right. Anybody else?" he asked - and calmly went on to speak further about his frustrations with the team's unpredictable on-court behavior.
Williams has used all different measures to motivate the Terps (15-8, 6-6). After the 15-point loss to Wake Forest on Jan. 11, he told an ESPN reporter that standout point guard John Gilchrist was "struggling with his identity," and had "issues with practice."
He made a "coach's decision" and kept leading scorer Nik Caner-Medley out of the starting lineup for the Mount St. Mary's game. Though injuries and matchups have forced his hand on several occasions, Williams has used seven different starting lineups this season.
However, Wednesday night marked the first time he directly and publicly questioned the team as a whole. On his WBAL Radio show last night, Williams was asked about his comments and he acknowledged that he doesn't "do that very often" and he hopes the message resonated with his team.
"That's why you do it," he said. "We've had to fight this year to reach a competitive level and we have. Now, it's time for each player to step up and take responsibility for how they play. I've taken responsibility for how we've played this year and [Wednesday night], I wanted the players to take responsibility."
In five Atlantic Coast Conference road losses, Maryland has been outscored by a total of 85 points. Even last year, when Maryland found itself on the NCAA tournament bubble because of its inconsistencies, the Terps lost only one game all season by more than 15 points.
Interestingly, that game, a 23-point setback, came at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the current Terps have their lone win on an opponent's home court.
Now, they have five losses on their resume by 15 points or more.
"The thing about it is ... you can't get too down," Caner-Medley said. "This isn't like everybody is so upset and is not going to get ready for the next game."
The Terps still enter their final four-game stretch, starting tomorrow at Virginia, in good position. They are ranked 26th in the Rating Percentage Index (used to seed and select teams for the NCAA tournament) and that would make the Terps a shoo-in for a tournament bid if the season ended today.
A 2-2 finish - and the Terps play three of those four games against teams in the bottom half of the league standings - would be enough for the Terps to make a 12th straight tournament appearance.
"We have four games left in the season and we are 6-6 so we'll see where that takes us," Williams said. "One thing is you keep trying. As a coach, you think there's got to be a way to get that consistency you want. I just haven't done it yet."
Next for Maryland
Matchup: No. 22 Maryland (15-8, 6-6) vs. Virginia (13-10, 4-8)
Site: University Hall, Charlottes- ville, Va.
When: Tomorrow, 3:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)