Terps hope to hand Hokies first home loss

Va. Tech and Maryland are both undefeated hosting conference games

February 28, 2010|By Don Markus | don.markus@baltsun.com

The Maryland Terrapins will put a four-game winning streak on the line today when they meet Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. But the Terps understand that keeping the streak intact won't be easy, considering that the Hokies have yet to lose this season at Cassell Coliseum.

Maryland (20-7, 10-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) is familiar with the mind-set that Virginia Tech (21-6, 8-5) might have, given the success the Hokies have had at home and the fact that they will be trying to break a two-game losing streak.

The Terps are one of four ACC teams that have not lost a conference home game this season.

Asked how difficult it is to win on the road in the ACC, junior forward Dino Gregory (Mount St. Joseph) said Friday: "It's very tough. You're going into a hostile environment, everyone's against you. You've got to overcome a lot of things on the road that you don't have to do at home."

Gregory compares Virginia Tech's situation this season to what Maryland went through last year, when the Terps needed a few home wins down the stretch to put themselves into serious contention for an NCAA tournament bid.

"We know how it felt, when Wake Forest and North Carolina came in," Gregory said. "It's kind of like a win or go home-type thing. They want to go to the tournament as much as we do. But this is a big thing for us, too. Our goal is to win an ACC championship. If we win here, it will really help us."

Except for a 21-point loss at Duke two weeks ago - a defeat the Terps can avenge Wednesday night at Comcast Center - Maryland has been one of the ACC's top road teams. The Terps won at Boston College (where Virginia Tech lost by 20 on Wednesday), Florida State and North Carolina State, took Wake Forest (also unbeaten in home ACC games) to overtime and faded down the stretch against Clemson.

"I'm pleased with the way we've played on the road," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Hopefully, that will continue. This is the type of team that you know that you're together when you go out and play in tough environments, you have each other's backs. We'll see how it goes."

Williams called it "a home-court year" in the ACC, evidenced by the fact that Maryland has lost only once at home (to William & Mary in December), Wake Forest has lost only once, and Duke and Virginia Tech are unbeaten. Williams said that most home courts are worth between "seven and 15 points. ... Most teams play better at home."

But, Williams added, "We've won on the road in the ACC. We know what we have to do."

What Maryland has to do against the Hokies is limit its turnovers. In their three road defeats, the Terps have averaged more than 18 turnovers, including 26 at Clemson. They also have to get off to a better start than they did against the Tigers on Wednesday, when the Terps fell behind by 15 points before coming back to win.

It was the third time during the four-game winning streak that Maryland fell behind in the second half, twice by double digits. The first three games came during a six-day stretch, four games in 10 days.

"I believe every year a team develops a certain resolve. Sometimes it's a better resolve than others," Williams said. "You use wins to build toward the next game. We've done a good job of doing that."

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