Terps hope to bounce back as they did in Maui

2 1/2 weeks later, No. 21 Maryland again quickly follows a defeat with another game


COLLEGE PARK -- The Maryland men's basketball team was hastily ushered out of its locker room at MCI Center on Monday night after its 78-70 loss to No. 19 George Washington in the BB&T Classic. Whether the Terps can forget it as quickly as they left it, though, remains to be seen.

Yesterday, coach Gary Williams was still struggling with it.

"I'm good," he said, laughing before he took it back. "No, I haven't slept much. But that's OK. That's part of the deal."

No. 21 Maryland (5-2) had one day to recover from its second loss to the Colonials in a year and prepare for tonight's 8 o'clock tip-off against Western Carolina, a 5-5 team from the Southern Conference. It's the Terps' final game before opening conference play Sunday against league newcomer Boston College.

While Maryland's depth and athleticism alone should be enough to overcome the Catamounts, who have a 2-36 record against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Terps have made a habit out of starting slow this season.

Williams said he would remind his players, who were unavailable to comment yesterday, of their resilience 2 1/2 weeks ago at the Maui Invitational. The Terps were in a similar situation in that they lost to No. 9 Gonzaga and had to play Division II Chaminade early the next morning.

"We have to do the same thing going into Western Carolina," Williams said. "That's the key. In basketball, nobody has gone undefeated for a long time. You have to be able to come back. You can't let one win or one loss derail what you're trying to do."

After watching his team from the sideline Monday night, Williams watched it again, on tape, before he went to sleep. For the first time this season, the Terps struggled to execute their offense and were impatient. George Washington held Maryland well below its ACC-leading 85.9 points a game.

The Terps also lead the ACC with 18 assists a game, but had just three in the first half. Williams said the players didn't wait to find a second or third option, and instead made individual decisions - something that hampered them last year.

They also committed 25 turnovers, with junior D.J. Strawberry, in his first season as the team's top point guard, accounting for seven. Williams said Strawberry couldn't get Maryland into its offense.

"That hurt us a lot," Williams said.

The one thing Williams said he kept replaying in his mind was the Terps' inability to execute the pressure set - something they had repeatedly practiced.

George Washington flustered the Terps with its press, and Maryland, a team that often relies heavily on the press, couldn't hold onto the ball. It was the first time this season Maryland had seen that type of pressure.

"It's a veteran team; I guess that's what disappointed me the most," Williams said. "It's not like we put four freshmen out there and that was their first experience in a tough game."

Despite not getting home until after midnight, Williams said he was in the office at 7 a.m. yesterday.

"We have to get the win," he said. "That's all we're trying to do [tonight], get the win. Hopefully we can handle it because of our experience in Hawaii."

Only when Maryland tips off tonight, Williams said, will he finally be able to let go of Monday night's loss.

Notes -- Maryland and Western Carolina have only met once, but the Terps' 113-46 win in 1998 was the second-largest margin of victory in school history. ... Coach Larry Hunter (514-229), who is in his first season at Western Carolina, spent the past four seasons as an assistant at North Carolina State. Before that, he was a head coach for 13 years at Wittenberg and 12 at Ohio.


Western Carolina@No. 21 Maryland Tonight, 8, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM Line: Maryland by 27

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