Miami guard Durand Scott, middle, is fouled by Maryland's… (Steve Mitchell / US PRESSWIRE…)
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — This is not at all how Maryland hoped to be playing out its regular season — struggling to find itself in front of a tiny crowd at BankUnited Center in a game between teams that had dipped below the NCAA tournament selection committee's radar.
But that's the situation the Terps were in tonight — trailing by 17 points in the second half against a Miami team that had not beaten an Atlantic Coast Conference team by double digits all season.
Maryland trimmed the deficit to five before falling, 80-66, on Miami's Senior Night in front of an announced 4,866. It was Maryland's first loss of the season to a team below .500 in ACC play — and perhaps the most dispiriting because the Terps hoped to end the season on an upward arc. Maryland hosts Virginia on Saturday in the last regular-season game and the final home contest for seniors Dino Gregory, Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker.
Maryland coach Gary Williams had said before tonight's game that he hoped his team (18-12, 7-8 ACC) could stay sharp after a long, trying season. Maryland — like Miami — has endured more than its share of single-digit defeats.
The Terps looked wilted at the start as they struggled to defend Miami 3-pointers. Freshman guard Rion Brown had six 3-pointers in the game and senior forward Adrian Thomas — playing his last home game — had three. Junior guard Malcolm Grant also had three. The Hurricanes (18-12, 6-9 ACC) were 12-for-23 (52.2 percent) from beyond the arc. Reggie Johnson, their 6-foot-10 center, had 16 rebounds.
"We just had a bad game tonight, that's for sure," Williams said. "They were much sharper than us early on. They played hard. They played good defense. They earned the game. They played better than we did in every area."
It was hard to pinpoint the cause of the lapses.
"You can't reach for things," Williams said. "You'd like to say, 'Well we were tired.' But that's not the case. There's no excuse."
Said Bowie (15 points): "I have no explanation. They came out ready to play. We didn't play Maryland basketball."
There were a few glaring statistics.
The Terps had just 16 assists — not enough to please their coach.
"We penetrated (but) the kick wasn't there like we usually have," Williams said. "We have to have more assists than that if we're going to be successful. On a good night we get 20."
Said Miami coach Frank Haith: "I thought our defense holding them to 66 points — 33 percent — was key to the game."
Jordan Williams, Maryland's leading scorer, struggled through a 3-for-17 night.
"That's quite a few shots," Gary Williams. "You've got to put the ball in the basket."
Maryland trailed, 47-30, before rallying.
A lay-in and a 3-pointer by Terrell Stoglin – who had 20 points before fouling out — cut the margin to 50-43. A bank shot by Sean Mosley made it 50-45 with 14:06 left.
The Terps could get no closer.
"We didn't have any kind of energy," said Stoglin, has scored at least 20 points in four of the past five games. "They wanted it more than us."
Asked about his coach's statement that Maryland needed to pass the ball more efficiently, Stoglin replied: "He's 100 percent correct. We've just got to learn to trust each other."
Maryland tried some different combinations, playing freshman forward Mychal Parker for the first time in three weeks. Williams said Parker earned the playing time in practice.
"I think next year he's going to be one of the key guys for us," the coach said.
Pundits say Maryland needs to win the ACC tournament, which begins March 10, to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament.
Players seemed somber as they were interviewed by the media before departing the BankUnited Center wearing Maryland sweat suits. The subject of the tournament hardly came up.