Williams: ACC 'what matters' most to UM

After Morgan debacle, coach sets sights on league play

January 10, 2009|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,jeff.barker@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland coach Gary Williams sounded eager yesterday to push past Wednesday night's loss to Morgan State - past the turnovers and missed shots and resulting media questions - and refocus the Terrapins' attention on today's opening of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule against Georgia Tech.

The Morgan State game, in which the Terps (11-3) missed 13 of 14 three-point attempts and had 21 turnovers, led to plenty of angst and criticism among Maryland fans - at least those bold enough to voice their opinions online and on talk radio.

But Williams said yesterday that the 66-65 loss was inconsequential compared with the 16-game ACC schedule that lies ahead.

"We got caught, but at 11-3 going into the ACC season, it really doesn't matter much whether you're 12-2 or 11-3. What matters is what you do the next 16 games," Williams said.

Like the pundits, Williams has an idea what will be required for the Terps to make the NCAA tournament field. They have missed the tournament three of the past four seasons and played in the National Invitation Tournament last season.

"If you go 7-9 in the league, you probably go home. If you go 9-7, you're still playing. And that's whether you're 12-2 or 11-3," Williams said.

Williams said the frequent upsets in college basketball are indicative of the difficulty of getting college-age kids to focus on the task at hand. He cited Boston College, which beat then-No. 1 North Carolina on the road before losing to Harvard at home the next game.

"Players are still 18 to 22 years old. They have the same feelings as any other college student does," Williams said. "This isn't a great time of year to be here by yourself with no other students on campus except some other teams that are two-semester sports. You see teams maybe not play and you think they will or whatever. It's not necessarily just the basketball; there are other things involved."

Williams said the loss to Morgan State was not just about the Terps having an off-night.

"Morgan State had three or four players on that team that would have been recruited by any Division I team given a different situation coming out of high school for them," he said.

Georgia Tech, like Maryland, is in the ACC's vast middle - a team with some talent but not nearly enough to take anything for granted in a tough conference.

At 9-5, Georgia Tech has lost to Penn State, Illinois-Chicago, Southern California, Virginia and Alabama. Georgia Tech is among the lowest-ranked teams in the nation in three-point field goals and free-throw percentage.

But Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal and Alade Aminu have been strong rebounders, and Maryland has been prone this season to allow offensive rebounds.

Notes: : Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech's freshman point guard, is second in the ACC in assists (6.4 per game). ... Maryland has hit a three-pointer in 334 straight games. ... The Morgan State loss ended Maryland's seven-game winning streak.

GEORGIA TECH (9-5, 0-1 ACC) @MARYLAND (11-3, 0-0)

Today, noon

TV: Chs. 54, 5

Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

Line: Maryland by 8 1/2

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