Terps look to Hoosiers to get back on track

Both teams struggling

Williams voices confidence

December 01, 2009|By Don Markus and Mike Klingaman

Maryland's 4-0 start is history - along with its No. 21 national basketball ranking - wiped out by back-to-back losses in Hawaii last week. But Gary Williams isn't sweating yet.

"We're a good basketball team, and we'll prove it," the Terps coach said Monday before his team left for tonight's contest at Indiana.

Maryland (4-2) hopes to recapture its swagger against the Hoosiers (3-3) in a game that is part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Indiana could be the antidote for the Terps. Under second-year coach Tom Crean - the brother-in-law of Ravens coach John Harbaugh - the Hoosiers have followed a 6-25 season with a rocky start in 2009-10.

Indiana went 0-3 in a tournament last week in Puerto Rico, including losses to Boston University and George Mason, before beating Northwestern State at home Saturday.

The game matches two teams with rich traditions that are desperate to find themselves. Has it been seven years since Maryland defeated Indiana, 64-52 in the 2002 NCAA championship game?

The Hoosiers have won all five regular-season matchups against the Terps, including an 80-74 overtime victory in 2002-03.

Williams, who coached at Ohio State in the 1980s, knows what awaits his team in Bloomington.

"It's the Midwest. It's Hoosiers. It's one of the great old places to play," he said.

But is this where Maryland breaks out of its funk?

After routing four straight undersized opponents, including Chaminade in the opening round of the Maui Invitational, Maryland was outmuscled by Cincinnati in the semifinals and outshot by Wisconsin in the third-place game. The result was a 69-57 defeat by the Bearcats and a 78-69 loss to the Badgers.

"We didn't shoot well" in the tournament, Williams said. "Our free throws were horrible, and we missed some shots that we'll make as the season goes on."

Maturity, or lack of it, cost the Terps dearly, senior forward Landon Milbourne said.

"A couple of guys on the team might have been caught up in 'the Maui moment' instead of realizing we had to go out there and win games," said Milbourne, Maryland's leading scorer (13.7 points per game).

"We've got to grow up a little bit and be more mature when it comes to getting ready for games. We've got to get that fire back, and quick."

The Terps' cushy early schedule masked weaknesses that surfaced in those losses, Milbourne said:

"Everything is OK when you're winning. You don't really look at a lot of the mistakes you make. But when we played more talented teams, we got exposed a little bit."

Better the Terps work the kinks out now, the coach said.

"I don't think these [early[ games have a tremendous effect on what takes place in February and March," Williams said.

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