Maryland's last game was Monday while N.C. State played… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
COLLEGE PARK — - Gary Williams has been known to tell his Maryland basketball players that they can't get tired.
"Tired is an excuse," the coach says.
The coach's edict might sound funny to those not initiated into Maryland's basketball program, but it's a serious matter to the Terrapins (17-7, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who play their third game in five days tonight at North Carolina State (14-12, 2-9).
The players seem to have bought into the idea that fatigue is mental as well as physical.
"When he needs us, you've got to be out there, no matter how tired you are," freshman center Jordan Williams said after Maryland's 85-66 victory over Virginia on Monday night in a game that was postponed five days because of the winter storm.
"I was tired a couple times out there tonight, but you never want to come out of the game for being tired," Williams said. "When you push yourself, that's how you get past being tired. I was going to call myself out of the game, but I just kept playing through it."
The North Carolina State game comes at the end of the most compact stretch of the regular season for Maryland. The Terps could end up playing more frequently during next month's ACC tournament but - as Gary Williams is quick to note - they won't have to travel between those games.
Maryland beat the Wolfpack, 88-64, at Comcast Center on Jan. 23.
This time around, Gary Williams suggested, the Wolfpack has the schedule on its side.
N.C. State, which last played Saturday, is on a four-game run in which it won't leave a 25-mile radius of its campus.
"N.C. State [last] played Saturday. They don't have the same situation we do," the coach said.
Maryland players don't seem disturbed by the physical challenge of playing a crammed schedule. Before last season, the team brought in former Ravens assistant Paul Ricci to fill the new position of full-time strength-and-conditioning coach. He introduced a number of challenging drills, including one in which players are repeatedly asked to sprint the length of the court twice in 22 seconds or less.
"I mean, we're 20 years old, so we shouldn't be tired," junior forward Dino Gregory said. "Basketball is just fun to us. It's like back to AAU days - playing three games in one day. This is really nothing to us, just basketball."
The challenge, Gary Williams said, is emotionally putting one game behind and preparing for the next. "I think the toughest thing is the mental thing of coming down from the game [Monday] night," the coach said.
Unlike most college teams, the Terps head into the weight room immediately after games to lift and stretch. Fans and media members leaving Comcast Center after games are often surprised to look inside the glass-enclosed workout area and see players lifting.
Ricci said the post-game sessions help players wind down and prepare for sleep - and, of course, the next game.
NOTES: N.C. State has lost four games in a row. The Wolfpack's biggest win was an 88-74 home victory over Duke on Jan. 20. ... The Terps have beaten the Wolfpack six straight times. ... N.C. State is led by forward Tracy Smith, who tops the ACC in field-goal percentage (.549). Smith scored 18 points against the Terps last month but only six in a first half in which Maryland built a lead it never relinquished.