Which way will Terps trend?

They hit heights vs. Clemson, bottom in Miami game

January 16, 2007|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

Maryland's complete effort in its win against Clemson on Saturday afternoon came in part, junior forward James Gist said, because the Terps had something to prove - to themselves.

"We wanted to come out and show that we're a good team," Gist said. "We had something to prove to ourselves, actually, that we could play as a team and that not too many people could play with us."

By breaking Clemson's 17-game winning streak, Maryland proved it is capable of maintaining its gritty defense while showing patience on offense in a game of consequence. Against Miami last week, though, the Terps also proved they can flop. The question heading into tonight's 8 o'clock game at Virginia is which kind of performance will become the trend as the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule bears down on Maryland. This is the first of four road games for the Terps (15-3, 1-2) in the next five contests.

Not even the quick turnaround against Clemson - which was the last unbeaten Division I men's team - could squelch coach Gary Williams' memory of how poorly his team played against Miami. The Terps went from shooting a season-low 22.4 percent against the Hurricanes to a season-high 62.7 percent against Clemson.

"I agree it was important we bounced back from the Miami loss, but I haven't gotten over the fact we didn't play well against Miami," Williams said yesterday. "We played well Saturday, but that doesn't make up for not playing well. You have to be consistent and you have to play well when it's time to play."

Maryland has won the past six games against Virginia, but the Cavaliers (9-6, 1-2) are eager to put a halt to their current three-game skid. Junior guard Sean Singletary is Virginia's leading scorer and second in the ACC at 18.6 points per game.

Maryland stole a win at Virginia last year, and it was an emotional loss for the Cavaliers, who were playing their last game at University Hall. Still, the Cavaliers have gotten off to a strong start in their new arena with an 8-1 record there.

Virginia beat Gonzaga and Arizona this year on its home court - wins that impressed Williams. Virginia coach Dave Leitao said his team has shown spurts of promise on both sides of the ball but struggles to put together a complete game.

"I think what we're trying to do is get better each and every day," Leitao said. "There are times we look very good offensively, we move the ball around and make a lot of shots. Defensively, make offenses uncomfortable. Where our problems come from - it's just trying to play to a higher level of consistency for a longer period of time. More than anything, that's what's plagued us."

While Virginia has been relying on Singletary and senior guard J.R. Reynolds (16.1 points per game, 4.2 assists per game) to create offense, the Terps have four starters averaging in double digits. All five scored in double figures against Clemson.

"It shows how much as a team we can contribute and get other guys involved and score rather than having two main guys putting up most of the points and other guys doing all the rebounding," said senior guard Mike Jones. "We try to get scoring from everywhere."

Senior forward Ekene Ibekwe said the team learned a lesson from the Miami and is guarding against a letdown.

"We just tell ourselves to play hard and stay aggressive," he said. "We see how we were much more active and alert defensively against them and how it paid off. We just need to carry that same effort to Virginia."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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