Terps lose

NCAA hopes on the ropes

Virginia Tech wins, 86-76, as UM slips to 7-9 in ACC

`I am not going to give up now'

UM's run of 11 straight NCAA tourneys in trouble

March 06, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

BLACKSBURG, Va. - With about 30 seconds left and Maryland trailing Virginia Tech by eight in a game the Terrapins absolutely had to win, the reality started to sink in.

Terps coach Gary Williams scowled, John Gilchrist sulked, and the entire Terps bench had their heads down, sensing the ramifications of the 86-76 loss to the Hokies yesterday in the regular-season finale before 9,847 at the Cassell Coliseum.

It has come to this for these Terps: Barring a now hard-to-imagine run in this week's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Maryland (16-11, 7-9 ACC) likely will see its streak of 11 straight NCAA tournament appearances come to an end.

"I am not going to give up now, that's for sure," said Williams, whose team would have likely been a lock for the tournament by getting to 8-8 in the league. "It all depends how the [NCAA selection] committee feels. ...

"Next week, you go in [to the ACC tournament] with the idea that if you can get a couple [wins], it puts you in pretty good shape. That will be the theme in practice. Hopefully, we can get to the level where we are a good basketball team."

The loss, Maryland's third in a row and sixth in its past nine games, means the Terps will begin defense of their ACC title as the No. 8 seed on Thursday at noon in the tournament opener at MCI Center in Washington.

Their opponent will be Clemson, which has beaten the Terps twice this season, or Virginia, which will clinch the ninth seed and a first-round matchup with the Terps with a victory today at last-place Florida State. A Virginia loss means another rematch for the Terps with Clemson.

And Maryland's reward for winning a first-round game, which may not be enough to clinch an NCAA bid, would be a date with second-ranked North Carolina or fourth-ranked Wake Forest in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, the Hokies (15-12, 8-8), picked in most preseason league polls to finish last or next to last, clinched a fourth or fifth seed and a bye in the ACC's first round.

"The last two days, all I have been hearing is Virginia Tech is fading [and] when Maryland wins, they will be in the tournament," said Hokies coach Seth Greenberg, whose team also likely needs ACC tournament success to guarantee itself an NCAA berth. "I don't think anyone thought we had a chance except those kids in the locker room."

Asked if Maryland remains confident of its NCAA chances, Gilchrist said, "Definitely. Why wouldn't we be? That's how losers think. I feel we have a good chance."

Gilchrist was booed every time he touched the ball, after he celebrated a baseline jumper by blowing on his fingers as if they were pistols right while standing right in front of the Hokies' bench. At the time late in the first half, the Terps, who scored the game's first basket but would not lead again, were trailing by six and would go into the locker room down 45-37.

Since losing to North Carolina last Sunday, the Terps, who fell to 2-6 on the road in the ACC, talked about how they historically play better with their backs against the wall. But aside from junior guard Chris McCray (18 points, seven rebounds), Maryland's veterans, who have been a part of several crucial wins over the past three years, came up small.

Gilchrist and junior Nik Caner-Medley had 11 and 12 points, respectively, and shot a combined 8-for-22 from the field. Junior forward Travis Garrison had as many turnovers (three) as points and played just 10 minutes. Sophomore guard Mike Jones shot 3-for-11 from the field and totally missed the rim on a dunk attempt.

They were almost bailed out by Maryland's youngest player, freshman James Gist, who made his second career start, scoring 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting.

"I just felt good tonight," said Gist, who, three times in the last five minutes of the game, put Maryland within two with a basket or free throws, only to watch the Hokies answer with a big shot. "I just felt like if this team goes hard all together, it would put us an a good position."

Added Williams: "For a freshman to play like that, it's good to see. That helps me a little bit [to] get through this thing."

Williams was particularly annoyed with his team's effort on defense and on the glass. Virginia Tech outrebounded Maryland, 45-33, including 19-9 on the offensive glass. The Hokies, who had five players in double figures led by Jamon Gordon's 23, outscored the Terps 20-8 on fast-break points and 21-11 on second-chance points.

"We are not a good defensive team this year," said Williams, who accepted the responsibility for the defeat. "Defense is 75 percent attitude, 25 percent technique. You've got to get a bunch of guys on the floor that want to stop people. I am going to try to find [those types of players] Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, that's for sure."

Trailing by 10 with 14 minutes left, the Terps went on an 11-1 run and tied the game at 57 on a Caner-Medley basket. However, Virginia Tech countered with an 8-0 run.

Twice late in the game, Virginia Tech hit baskets just as the shot clock was about to expire. The second one, a Gordon jumper with 2:05 to play, gave the Hokies a 76-72 lead. The Terps then committed a turnover and missed two consecutive shots.

"We've still got a lot of basketball left," McCray said.

Next for Maryland

Matchup: Maryland (16-11, 7-9) vs. Clemson (15-14, 5-11) or Virginia (13-13, 4-11) in Atlantic Coast Conference tournament first round.

Note: If Virginia beats Florida State today, the Cavaliers will face Maryland. If Virginia loses today, Clemson will be the Terps' opponent.

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Thursday, noon

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

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