Terps are wary of letdown at Virginia

Maryland hopes to avoid repeat of last season's loss to Cavaliers in regular-season finale

March 06, 2010|By Jeff Barker | jeff.barker@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK — - If the No. 22 Maryland Terrapins require any additional motivation against Virginia today, they need only remember how dazed and depressed they were as they trudged off the John Paul Jones Arena court one year ago after losing to the Cavaliers.

Last season's Virginia team had lost four games in a row when it upset the Terps, 68-63, dealing what seemed at the time to be a devastating blow to Maryland's chances of making the NCAA tournament. The Terps earned a berth a week later on the strength of their performance in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Like last season, today's matchup in Charlottesville, Va., is both teams' last regular-season game. And like last season, Virginia is reeling - the Cavaliers (14-14, 5-10) have lost their past eight games.

But that's where the similarities end, say the Terps (22-7, 12-3), who are tied with Duke atop the ACC standings.

"Last season we were struggling a little bit closing games out, and that's what caused us to be on the bubble a lot," said sophomore guard Sean Mosley (St. Frances). "This year we're just playing. We've got inside presence from Jordan [Williams] and Landon [Milbourne] and Dino [Gregory] and James [Padgett]."

Maryland could claim the top seed in next week's ACC tournament with a win and a Duke loss to North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium tonight. But the No. 4 Blue Devils are 16-0 at home and beat the Tar Heels by 10 points earlier in the season. Duke holds the tiebreaking advantages if it finishes with the same record as Maryland.

If it is the No. 2 seed, Maryland would open the ACC tournament Friday night against the winner of the game pitting the No. 7 and No. 10 seeds.

Maryland coach Gary Williams has the luxury of having three senior starters - Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Milbourne - who know all too well the danger of letting down against lesser teams. The Terps are coming off a 79-72 win over Duke on Wednesday night that was their biggest win of the season.

"That's the great thing about having seniors," power forward Jordan Williams said. "They've been in that situation before."

The freshman said the Duke win created a discernible buzz on campus. "The atmosphere is crazy still around campus. People will come up to you and say, 'Good job,' and [send] Facebook messages. It's cool.," he said.

Today won't be the first time, Gary Williams said, that the Terps, who have won six in a row, have needed to quickly come down from an emotional victory. He cited the buzzer-beating win over Georgia Tech, which was followed four days later by a victory over Clemson on Feb. 24.

"We've been in some games this season that were hard to describe. And we've been able to get ready for the next game," the coach said. "That's our job as a team is to realize that you have to complete a season. You can't prepare for 15 games and not prepare for 16 games. That's what we have to do."

Virginia is led by sophomore Sylven Landesberg (17.3 points per game). The 6-foot-6 guard has been battling a thigh injury and scored 13 points on 6-for-15 shooting in a loss to Boston College on Wednesday night.

Landesberg scored 12 points in Virginia's 85-66 loss to Maryland at Comcast Center on Feb. 15. Last season, he had 14 points in the win over the Terps.

"Virginia, they just wanted it more than us last year," Mosley said.

"We came out flat and [were] trying to come back from being down. [It was] Senior Night for them, too. This year is kind of different. We're more focused."

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