Terps open ACC play with Boston College

Maryland players are haunted by three close losses, want to prove they can compete with elite opponents

December 11, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland had just defeated UNC-Greensboro by 43 points, but Jordan Williams wore a sour expression.

The sophomore center knew that it was the Terps' 15th straight win at Comcast Center. He was aware that they have avoided the sort of early-season upset losses — such as to William & Mary last season — that rankle Maryland fans.

But Williams also knew that the Terps (7-3) lost close games to the three teams — Temple, Illinois and Pittsburgh — that tested them the most. Illinois and Pitt were nationally-ranked at the time Maryland played them, and Temple had recently fallen out of the Top 25.

"It's frustrating," said Williams, whose team opens Atlantic Coast Conference play Sunday against Boston College (7-2). "We could really be undefeated right now if you think about it — a couple plays here and there, a couple loose balls, a couple free throws we hit. We know we can compete."

Boston College isn't nationally-ranked, but the Eagles have won four in a row and present the challenges Williams says he welcomes. They have four returning starters and a hot player — junior guard Reggie Jackson — who scored 26 points on 9-of-12 from the floor in an 88-86 win over Providence Wednesday night.

Boston College is coached by Steve Donahue, who was lured from Cornell during the offseason.

"Boston College will be a much tougher team (than UNC-Greensboro on Wednesday night)," senior Cliff Tucker said. "We're all excited — our first ACC game."

With six new players this season, the Terps have been in a work in progress.

But it's not just the newcomers still finding their way. The returning players, with the exception of Williams, have also not been as consistent as they would like.

Tucker, for example, recalled his 3-for-11 shooting in Maryland's 80-76 loss to Illinois at New York's Madison Square Garden on Nov. 19. He said he was having stomach problems ("something I ate") and was 0-for-4 in the second half.

"I got kind of sick. A lot of people don't know about that," Tucker said. "After the game, I started thinking a little bit too much, started worrying about what other people say. I wasn't shooting the ball like I should."

The Terps reduced a 12-point deficit to two points in the final minute before falling.

Tucker's performance since the Illinois contest has included subpar offensive games against Penn State (no points) and Temple (two points).

Coach Gary Williams benched Tucker and fellow starters Adrian Bowie, Sean Mosley and Dino Gregory for much of the second half of the 64-61 loss to Temple on Dec. 5. The coach said they had been too passive against Temple's defense.

But the starters were all back on the floor at the opening of the UNC-Greensboro game.

Tucker scored 13 points and Bowie rebounded from a two-point performance against Temple to score 16 points. "I think it's a confidence thing," Bowie said. "Once the first one went in, I was going to be a lot more aggressive."

Jordan Williams said the Terps are playing a quality opponent — Boston College — at the "perfect" time for the starters who had struggled against Temple.

"Coach Williams challenged them [and] they stepped up to the challenge," the center said.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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