Seniors start but Terps can't finish in 74-60 loss to Virginia

Maryland enters ACC Tournament on three-game losing streak

March 05, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — — Even with all the indignities it endured this season -- the eight single-digit losses, the seven starting-lineup changes -- it seemed improbable that Maryland would drop its final regular-season home game to a Virginia team it led in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.

Not on Maryland's Senior Day. Not when the Terps urgently needed a lift after two straight ACC defeats. Not under a coach who habitually gets his players to finish with flourishes and whose team went undefeated here last season in conference play.

But little is guaranteed this season for a Maryland team that surrendered the lead to the Cavaliers in the opening minutes on Saturday and couldn't catch up in a 74-60 Virginia win.

"There's no excuses in a situation like that," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who questioned his team's intensity. "That's the one thing I expect my players to understand."

"What we do now is get ready to play in the ACC tournament," said Williams, whose team would likely need to capture the tournament title -- it would require four wins, beginning Thursday -- to secure an NCAA tournament berth. "I know no team has ever won four games down there since the expansion. At the same time, we are going down there to try to win the thing."

Virginia (16-14, 7-9 ACC) won partly because junior guard Sammy Zeglinski got into a rhythm and scored 25 points, including 6-for-7 on 3-pointers. The Cavaliers successfully navigated around Maryland's full-court pressure and had just six turnovers.

It was a game in which Maryland seniors Dino Gregory, Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie started together for the first time since Dec. 12. It was the eighth starting lineup this season. The trio was honored with family members on the Comcast Center court before the game. Members of the student section chanted "Thank you, seniors" at the end.

The seniors were eagerly hoping to make the final home game memorable -- even if much of the season that preceded it was not. What the seniors and their teammates got instead was more disappointment.

"It's a loss (and) any loss is disappointing," said sophomore center Jordan Williams (17 points). "I hate losing."

Maryland (18-13, 7-9 ACC) trailed by 12 points in the second half before a final run fell short.

The Terps cut the deficit to 63-55 on Tucker's 3-pointer with 6:32 left. It was the first field goal of the game for Tucker, who was scoreless at the half and finished with five points. Tucker, Gregory (15 points) and Bowie (five points) were not made available to the media after the game.

The decibel level noticeably picked up during Maryland's rally. Football coach Randy Edsall -- promoting his team at halftime -- had picked up a microphone and told the fans: "It's not noisy enough in here." Among the fans in attendance was Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

But the Terps could get no closer than five.

With Maryland trailing 63-58, Tucker missed a free throw, Pe'Shon Howard missed an inside shot, Williams missed a dunk and Tucker missed a 3-pointer.

"It would have been a big momentum swing if I had made that dunk," Williams said.

A drive by Virginia's Mustapha Farrakhan made it 67-60 and his subsequent foul shot upped the lead to eight with 2:23 left.

Maryland has often had success with full-court presses and traps. Virginia coach Tony Bennett prepared his team for the pressure with a challenging drill in practice.

"Coach put seven guys on defense and we had five," Virginia forward Will Sherrill said. "And with seven-on-five pressing us, we had to attack and move hard, and that preparation made breaking their press a lot easier for us."

Jordan Williams said the Terps will need short memories as they head to the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

"As hard as it's going to be, we've got to put it behind us and focus on the ACC tournament," he said.

Gary Williams has often said the Terps don't have the luxury this season of beating teams without playing their best.

"In basketball, you can intimidate other teams not physically but just by your effort -- with your body language," the coach said. "We just weren't that type of team today."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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