Terps forward Dino Gregory goes to the hoop against a Georgia… (US Presswire )
ATLANTA — The truth about the Maryland basketball team this year is that there are plenty of nights, both at home and on the road, when they shoot jumpers with all the grace and dexterity of a hippopotamus attempting to play a piano. Despite the best of intentions, the thudding and clanging that results is a bit awkward to watch.
But to the Terps credit, there are also nights when they do everything else well enough that it really doesn't matter.
Maryland's 74-63 victory over Georgia Tech Sunday at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum was a perfect example of how imperfect the Terps can look in their half-court offense, while at the same time finding a way to win by overwhelming opponents with energy and effort.
Maryland didn't hit a jump shot outside of 10 feet the entire night, but the Terps built a 13-point lead in the second half on the strength of transition baskets, free throws, offensive rebounds and great defense. It wasn't always pretty -- it was the first time since 1999, a span of 407 games, that Maryland failed to hit a 3-pointer -- but it was still enough to give the Terps (14-7, 4-3) their third consecutive victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"We're not a team that can depend on style points to win games," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "Our pressure defense helps us. Every team has to play a certain way each year, and that has to be us this year. We have to play with a lot of intensity."
Sophomore forward Jordan Williams scored 21 points and had 15 rebounds to lead Maryland, a strong bounce-back performance considering Williams was coming off a game against Virginia when he was held to just four points and six rebounds.
"I think it was important for us to emphasize getting the ball inside and just letting me go to work," said Williams.
Sean Mosley added 16 points and played great defense, giving Maryland stability in transition much of the night. Gary Williams called it one of Mosley's best games of the season, especially coming on the heels of a game where he was held scoreless.
"It was just me having more confidence in myself," Mosley said. "Things were falling for me early and I continued to attack. That's how you get into the rhythm of a game."
Georgia Tech was playing a bit short-handed Sunday because of the flu. The Yellow Jackets were missing 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Brian Oliver, who scored 28 points in the Yellow Jackets recent 72-57 win over Virginia Tech, as well as 6-foot-10 center Nate Hicks.
And as a result, they had no real answer inside for Williams, who crashed the glass on every miss, and tipped loose balls even when he couldn't haul in the rebound. Of the Terps' 74 points, 48 of them came from the inside the paint, and 25 of them came on free throws. The only other basket Maryland had that didn't fit into those two categories was scored by Mosley, on a 10-foot baseline jumper 10 minutes into the second half.
"[Giving up] 48 points in the paint makes it tough to win a basketball game," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt.
"I think it proves we're a very versatile team," Jordan Williams said. "We do whatever we have to do to win the game. We'll adjust to every type of defense. We wanted to come out tonight and just attack the basket, and I think we did that."
Maryland jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game, getting easy scoring opportunities in transition. Georgia Tech tried to employ a half-court trap, then full court pressure, but Maryland barely seemed phased by any of it. Jordan Williams scored twice on offensive rebounds, and Mosley had a lay-up and a fast break dunk on consecutive possessions.
But the Yellow Jackets shot their way back into the game with a handful of 3-pointers. Maurice Miller, Glen Rice Jr., and Iman Shumpert all knocked down treys when Maryland was a step slow rotating on defense, and Georgia Tech managed pull within 35-34 by halftime.
But Maryland just kept coming in waves. They stuck their hands in passing lanes, cut off the Yellow Jackets path to the basket, and harassed Georgia Tech on the perimeter. Daniel Miller looked like he had a wide open dunk at one point, and Dino Gregory swooped in from well behind the play and swatted it away.
Williams missed an off-balance lay-up on a fast break with 13:25 remaining, and it felt like the kind of miss that might loom large when Shumpert hit a deep jumper to energize the crowd and pull Georgia Tech with 51-48.
But the Terps responded with a 10-0 run, which was capped off by an emphatic dunk by Williams, after which he let loose a primal roar that could easily be heard in the suddenly quiet arena. Maryland also got another solid game from freshman point guard Terrell Stoglin, who scored 13 points and was 7-of-7 on free throws.
"We didn't shoot well as jump shooters, and we didn't shoot the ball well lay-ups," Gary Williams said. "But we did what we had to do. And I think that's the key for us, trying to do something to keep us in the game and then try to win it at the end."
Shumpert -- who prior to the game Williams called "one of the best guards in the country" -- had just 12 points for the Yellow Jackets on 5-of-15 shoot. Rice led Georgia Tech with 16 points, but he too had a rough night from the floor, going just 5-of-15.
"It's been a long season for us," Mosley said. "We've had a lot of ups and downs. But we've just got to come out here an grind, each and every time. Every time in the ACC is not quite up to par this year. It's not like last year. So if we play 40 minutes hard, we can win any game, and I think the team is starting to realize that."