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Maryland misery: What happened and what’s next for the Terps?

Posted on 15 March 2011 by Luke Jones

As you settled in Tuesday night to embark in this new era of the “First Four” and tried to figure out what channel truTV was on, or if you settled for the ho-hum action of the NIT, the noticeable absence of Maryland basketball leaves many in the area pondering the same question.

What’s next for the Terps?

After failing to qualify for the NCAA tournament or NIT for the first time since 1993, Maryland finds itself in territory not seen in College Park since the inky shadow of NCAA probation was still lingering. But after a couple days to digest the duel rejection that ended a season of disappointment, are you really that distraught over missing out on the NIT, a tournament nobody wanted to go to anyway?

In retrospect, what did you really expect entering the 2010-11 season?

Losing three key seniors, including ACC player of the year Greivis Vasquez, not only left a 54.5 percent hole in scoring, but also valuable leadership difficult to replace. Beyond the anticipated improvement of Jordan Williams — who blossomed into the best big man in the ACC as a sophomore — coach Gary Williams would bestow his hopes on three seniors who combined to score 14.7 points per game as juniors to lead the Terps back to the NCAA tournament for the third straight year.

Repeating as ACC regular season co-champions seemed out of the question, but reaching the tournament was a possibility if the ball bounced Maryland’s way.

It proved to be too much to ask of a disappointing senior class — which originally included forwards Braxton Dupree and Shane Walker who left the program for Towson and Loyola respectively — that never lived up to lofty expectations. Ironically, it was Baltimore’s Dino Gregory, the least distinguished of the trio through three seasons, who showed the most improvement and outshone his veteran counterparts. His leadership and 9.1 scoring average was the bright spot of the senior class.

The first half of Adrian Bowie’s career was stronger than the finish, starting 28 games as a sophomore, but the Greenbelt product struggled to shoot consistently enough to make a significant impact in his final two seasons.

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And, of course, there was the curious case of Cliff Tucker. Entering his senior season, many envisioned a Drew Nicholas-like senior season for Tucker after playing behind the likes of Vasquez and Eric Hayes. Instead, despite a strong start in which he reached double figures in narrow losses to Pitt and Illinois, he turned out to be, well, Cliff Tucker, the athletic and frustratingly inconsistent figure who could take over a game one moment and dribble the ball off his foot the next.

It’s a group that will be remembered for not being good enough, a description befitting the entire season.

Unlike most teams during Williams’ tenure at Maryland, this one never improved collectively, the curse of poor long-range shooting, inconsistency from the line, painful scoring droughts, and shoddy perimeter defense dooming the Terps countless times against the better teams on the schedule.

It was the improvement of freshmen Terrell Stoglin, Pe’Shon Howard, and Haukur Palsson that was often needed to counter the decline of Tucker and the inconsistency of Bowie and junior Sean Mosley down the stretch as Maryland held on to slim hopes of reaching the field of 68. The trio showed promise for the future, but growing pains escorted that development as the Terps dropped four of their last five games to end the 19-14 campaign.

For the fourth time in seven years, Maryland has fallen short of the NCAA tournament, and the detractors are once again pushing for change at the top. The effects of an underwhelming senior class are the responsibility of the man who recruited them.

What now for the iconic coach?

Regardless of where you stand with Williams, who has two years remaining on his current contract, the end is approaching some time in the not-so-distant future. For perspective, the legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith stepped down at age 66, the same age Williams reached earlier this month. Crediting his good health, Williams has appeared re-energized since a not-so-secret attempt to push him away from the Maryland sideline two years ago. Still, Father Time waits for no one, and Williams’ departure is a reality for which athletic director Kevin Anderson must plan.

Despite the decline of the program since a national championship in 2002, the collective success of Williams’ 22 years at Maryland cannot be diminished, regardless of how entitled or disenchanted some might feel. He has earned the right to decide, within reason, when he’ll walk away from a Hall of Fame career, but you have to wonder if the hourglass has expired for him to guide the Terps back to the consistent top-25 — and even better — status they enjoyed a decade ago.

Even being in the November of his coaching career, I’ll still take Williams, the in-game coach, against anyone with comparable talent. But therein lies the problem. The Maryland coach cannot continue to bring a knife to a gun fight and expect favorable results over the long haul. A program cannot afford to have recruiting classes such as the one graduating in May without experiencing major bumps in the road.

Consistently falling to Duke and North Carolina in their best years is understandable. Finishing 0-5 against Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Miami — three NIT teams — and compiling a 10-20 mark against the three former Big East defectors since 2005 is unacceptable. Nobody knows that more than Williams.

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Late collapse to Duke paints (im)perfect picture of Maryland’s season

Posted on 12 March 2011 by Luke Jones

If you’ve been seeking the abridged version of a frustrating season for Maryland, the final 10 minutes of an 87-71 loss to Duke on Friday night revealed everything you needed to know about the Terps.

After an impressive performance over the first 30 minutes against the second-seeded Blue Devils in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, the Terps were in position to challenge the No. 5 team in the country, trailing 63-60 after a Dino Gregory layup at the 10:13 mark.

All-ACC senior Nolan Smith was ineffective throughout the night and left the game with a toe injury with just under seven minutes left. The normally sharpshooting Blue Devils were a paltry 3-for-15 from beyond the arc. And despite a huge night from  all-conference senior Kyle Singler (29 points for the game), the Maryland defense swarmed the ball on nearly every possession, leaving a perimeter-dependent team with few open looks.

Opportunity was sitting right there as Maryland had essentially made it a 10-minute game against one of the best teams in the country. It wasn’t the near-perfect performance they needed to secure the upset, but Duke’s struggles had allowed an energized Maryland team to hang around.

And then, like we’ve seen all too many times this season, the Terps completely crumbled and Duke clutched them by the throat, squeezing the final breath out of their far-fetched NCAA tournament hopes and leaving them to wait for the NIT selection show on Sunday night.

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The Blue Devils outscored them by a 24-11 margin over the the final 10 minutes as the Terps would go scoreless for nearly six minutes after Gregory’s layup, failing to bank another field goal until Pe’Shon Howard’s bucket with 4:03 to play. Maryland turned the ball over at crucial times, looking confused and out of its league as Duke seized control.

Poor free-throw shooting (15-for-28) throughout the night was magnified as a manageable deficit became too much to overcome with the Terps turning ice-cold and Duke making its free throws (14-for-15 in the second half) in the final minutes.

Despite 16 points and 16 rebounds from Jordan Williams, the sophomore’s 2-for-10 showing from the line made it a fruitless effort to get him the ball inside to draw contact. Cliff Tucker chipped in 12 points while Gregory and Howard added 10 apiece, but no one could spark the struggling Maryland offense late as the scoring drought grew longer and the deficit wider.

Terrell Stoglin continued his struggles against Duke, scoring six points and turning it over five times. His late-season maturity reverted back to the look of a frustrated freshman for much of the evening, but one would hope better days are ahead for the talented point guard against the Blue Devils.

And just like that, it was over. What had been an entertaining first 30 minutes transformed into a 16-point defeat, Maryland’s third of the season to Duke.

Truthfully, no one expected the Terps to pose much of a threat to Mike Krzyzewski’s group, who is aiming for another No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a possible rematch with North Carolina in the ACC tournament championship. Duke will play Virginia Tech in the semifinal Saturday while North Carolina takes on Clemson.

In contrast, Gary Williams will now lead an underwhelming group to the NIT for the fourth time in seven years. A rivalry that was once more competitive than Duke’s storied war with North Carolina — for several years, mind you — has dissipated to the sound of nine losses in the last 10 games to the Blue Devils.

After losing the ACC Player of the Year and two other key seniors who accounted for more than half of the team’s scoring a year ago, the Terps just weren’t good enough to play a full 40 minutes against the better teams in the country this season. The results speak for themselves.

The effort was there Friday night — a refreshing change after lifeless showings against Miami and Virginia to close the regular season — but the talent wasn’t there to finish the job.

As Gary Williams said following last Saturday’s loss to Virginia, “close doesn’t count, especially this time of year.”

It’s a lesson the Terps are painfully familiar with this season.

One they’ll take with them to the glamourless NIT.

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Terps’ late-season fade continues with 74-60 loss to Virginia

Posted on 05 March 2011 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Minutes after Maryland’s regular season concluded with a third straight loss, Gary Williams offered a remark that could summarize his team’s entire season.

“Close doesn’t count, especially this time of year. You have to figure out a way to win those games.”

It’s a mantra that rings true for a team that’s failed to close out victories against top opponents and to complete comeback efforts on several occasions.

It’s the reality the Terps now face, needing to win four straight in the conference tournament as their only means to make the NCAA tournament.

Continuing their late-season collapse, the Terps fell to Virginia, 74-60, in a game controlled by the Cavaliers all afternoon on Maryland’s Senior Day. The loss leaves Maryland (18-13, 7-9 ACC) with a three-game losing streak to finish the regular season for the first time since 2005 and Williams to search for answers before the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C. next weekend.

The Cavaliers (16-14, 7-9 ACC) slowed the tempo to their liking, turning it over just six times as Maryland’s full-court pressure failed to produce any points off turnovers. Virginia received career-high performances by junior center Assane Sene (15 points) and junior guard Sammy Zeglinski, who torched the Terps for 25 points on six 3-pointers. The pair combined for eight points in the teams’ first meeting, a 66-42 Maryland victory in Charlottesville on Jan. 27.

Virginia’s 8-for-17 performance from beyond the arc continued a disturbing trend for the Maryland perimeter defense that allowed wide-open looks to Zeglinski all afternoon.

“They did a better job of running their offense as opposed to us,” Williams said. “There’s no excuses in a situation like that.”

Even so, the Terps found themselves in a familiar position to what they faced at Miami on Wednesday, using an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 63-58 with 5:12 remaining. However, Maryland could get no closer, scoring just two points the rest of the way as Virginia finished the afternoon with a 9-0 run to beat the Terps at Comcast Center for the first time since 2007.

Maryland shot just 37.5 percent in the second half, scoring 27 points in its attempt to erase a 37-33 halftime deficit. Williams pointed to missed shots in the paint when the gap was narrowed, allowing Tony Bennett’s squad to regain control down the stretch.

“It was close and then they pulled away, and then we had to fight back,” said Jordan Williams, who led the team with 17 points and six rebounds. “It was an uphill battle all night. We kind of just let them play with us early. We should have just taken them out of the game at the beginning, but we didn’t do that.”

The Maryland coach’s frustration level bubbled over in the second half when he drew his first technical foul in over two years. At one point, Williams sent the unconventional lineup of Dino Gregory, Pe’Shon Howard, Mychal Parker, Hawk Palsoon, and Berend Weijs to the floor in the second half, looking for the spark his regular rotation was not providing.

The Terps did get closer, but not close enough, as Gary Williams put it so bluntly.

After meek losses to Miami and Virginia, he’s looking for answers in every nook and cranny. And finding none.

“Monday’s practice will be interesting in terms of trying to find the right guys to go down there and represent us in the ACC tournament,” Williams said.

It’s the type of comment you expect to hear at the start of the season — not in March.

Maryland will now attempt to become the first team to win four straight in the ACC tournament since it was expanded to the current format in 2005. The Terps will play as the seventh seed in Greensboro should Miami fall at Georgia Tech on Sunday; Maryland falls to eighth if the Hurricanes defeat the Yellow Jackets.

In a down year for the ACC, it shows just how far the Terps have fallen from a year ago when they shared the regular season title with Duke and were led by ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez. Unlike the Baltimore native Gregory, who’s been one of the few pleasant surprises in an otherwise disappointing year, the senior backcourt of Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker failed to elevate their respective games nearly enough to put the Terps in a position to make it back to the Big Dance.

Senior Day was a painful conclusion, as the two combined for just 10 points while Gregory had 15 to continue his strong play down the stretch.

Unfortunately, it’s a senior class that will go down as one of the most disappointing of the Gary Williams era, with only Gregory raising his play substantially during his time in College Park. When you consider forwards Braxton Dupree (transferred to Towson) and Shane Walker (Loyola) had already left the program, the recruiting class of 2007 appears even more critical to the team’s downfall in 2011.

Gary Williams and the Terps will try to make the best of their trip to the Greensboro Coliseum, stating they expect to make noise in Greensboro and knowing their only option is to win four in a row.

But their recent play resembles a group that will struggle to survive Thursday’s first-round match-up, much less make it to Championship Sunday.

“We’re struggling right now, but next week I think it’s going to be a whole different team,” freshman Pe’Shon Howard said. “I think we’re going to do well in the ACC tournament.”

Valiant words, but it’s been the same result all season.

Close, but no cigar.

Why would it change now?

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Maryland-Virginia: Turtle Power live chat at 2:00

Posted on 05 March 2011 by Luke Jones

***Join us in the Turtle Power live chat as Maryland takes on the Virginia Cavaliers in the regular season finale***

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It’s Senior Day at Comcast Center as the Maryland Terrapins (18-12, 7-8 ACC) close out the regular season by hosting the Virginia Cavaliers (15-14, 6-9 ACC) at 2:00.

Seniors Dino Gregory, Cliff Tucker, and Adrian Bowie will be honored as they play their final regular season game in College Park. The senior class has clearly been a disappointment this season with Maryland counting on the three to play bigger roles after losing over half of its point production from a season ago.

Despite an NCAA tournament bid looking to be out of reach unless the Terps win the ACC tournament, Maryland will look to close out the regular season on a high note by reaching the .500 mark in conference play and build some momentum heading into Greensboro, N.C. next Thursday.

This afternoon’s game can be seen on the ACC Network (WNUV-TV 54 in Baltimore) with Tim Brant and Dave Odom calling the action from Comcast Center. As always, join us in the Turtle Power chat beginning at 2:00 and follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates and analysis from College Park.

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Maryland overwhelmed by UNC, 87-76, as at-large hopes go up in smoke

Posted on 28 February 2011 by Luke Jones

In a game the Terps needed to win to keep their at-large hopes alive for a bid to the NCAA tournament, North Carolina was the bigger, stronger, and faster team.

Gary Williams called timeout after timeout — burning his last one with 10:32 remaining in the game — to search for the right words or combination of players to ignite a spark.

But short of finding Juan Dixon or Greivis Vasquez sitting at the end of the bench — or at least a Lonny Baxter to counterbalance the Tar Heels’ dominant frontcourt — it wasn’t going to matter.

The Terps ran into a buzz saw that was simply better than them in an 87-76 loss in Chapel Hill Sunday night. Short of a miracle run in Greensboro, N.C. in two weeks, Maryland saw its tournament hopes fade away in a similar fashion to many of their losses this season.

A respectable effort, but just not good enough.

North Carolina’s frontcourt combination of Tyler Zeller and John Henson combined for 35 points and 21 rebounds as the Tar Heels racked up 19 offensive rebounds, 14 coming in the first half to build a 43-31 lead at intermission. The Heels’ 46-42 edge in rebounding failed to tell how lopsided it was in that department, particularly in the first half when North Carolina thrived on second-chance opportunities.

The Tar Heels’ freshman combination of Harrison Barnes (21 points) and Kendall Marshall (10 assists) was terrific while sophomore Leslie McDonald came off the bench to add 15 points and three 3-pointers.

To be fair, North Carolina (22-6, 12-2 ACC) played like a group staking its claim as the ACC’s best team with a home rematch against Duke only six days away to likely determine the conference’s regular season champion.

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Maryland received another sterling effort from freshman Terrell Stoglin who scored a career-high 28 points, his sixth straight double-digit performance. Sophomore Jordan Williams, battling a stomach bug, added 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds but was clearly not 100 percent against North Carolina’s massive front line.

After that for the Terps?

Not a whole lot.

The senior trio of Dino Gregory, Cliff Tucker, and Adrian Bowie combined for just 16 points on 7-for-19 shooting in a game the Terps needed to win to avoid ending up where the three played to conclude their first season at Maryland: the NIT.

The Terps went 2-for-12 from 3-point range, making a double-digit deficit too steep to overcome in the second half.

Despite the optimism created by consecutive wins over NC State and Florida State, Maryland reverted back into the team it’s looked like all season against tougher competition.

One that doesn’t have enough to make the NCAA tournament.

While optimists will point out that Maryland doesn’t have a bad loss to its name and will envision possible scenarios that might get the Terps invited to the Big Dance — short of the automatic bid that accompanies winning the ACC tournament, of course — they’ll only be grasping at straws.

An 0-6 record against top-25 teams and a lone win against top-50 RPI teams (1-9 overall) doesn’t warrant mention in the conversation, let alone recognition as a bubble team.

Two wins in Greensboro over an ACC bottom feeder and Virginia Tech or Florida State won’t do it for the selection committee. A trip to the final along with other bubble scenarios falling perfectly in Maryland’s favor might make the selection show worth watching, but still won’t leave the Terps in great shape.

Cutting down the nets at the Greensboro Coliseum — the same place where John Gilchrist and company did it in 2004 — looks to be Maryland’s only key to opening the door for a spot in the field of 68.

So what’s next for Maryland?

The silver lining in Sunday’s loss to the Tar Heels was another tremendous performance by Stoglin, playing his first game at the Dean Dome with everything on the line for the Terps.

Not only has Stoglin improved from his early season struggles to adjust to the college game, but it now looks like Gary Williams has the makings of a special player on his hands the next three years.

But now, Maryland (18-11, 7-7 ACC) must turn its attention to the final week of the regular season (a game at Miami Wednesday followed by Virginia at home on Saturday) and the near-impossible task of winning the ACC tournament to make it to the Big Dance.

The Terps’ three seniors must take a long look at themselves to determine how they want to be remembered in College Park. Aside from Gregory’s steady improvement, it’s been a terribly disappointing year for the group.

Entering the season, the biggest question facing the Terps would be how much the three seniors and junior Sean Mosley would step up to fill roles more critical to the team’s success. They — or some combination of the four — would need to provide the leadership and much of the production left behind by Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Landon Milbourne.

With the Terps now finding themselves locked into the crosshairs of the NIT and needing to rely on a freshman as the only consistent scoring complement to Jordan Williams, the verdict to that question has become pretty clear.

It hasn’t been enough. And it’s why the Terps find themselves on the outside looking in with March on the way.

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Thursday 3-Pointer: 2011 Yanks- Underdogs and Overlords, Niets No Longer & Talking Terps and Tourney

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Thursday 3-Pointer: 2011 Yanks- Underdogs and Overlords, Niets No Longer & Talking Terps and Tourney

Posted on 24 February 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Thursday 3-Pointer

 #1 – 2011 Yankees: Underdogs and Overlords


A lot of things can come to pass over the course of a 162-game baseball season, but I’m having a hard time adapting to this perception of the Yankees cast as underdogs in the AL East. Perhaps the off-season realization that pinstripes don’t always sell themselves and that some people (even modern ballplayers) still value some things more than money isn’t sitting well with a team who has handed out more than their fair share of blank checks in recent seasons. Although the Yanks clearly aren’t as improved as the Red Sox since the end of last season, they’re still a 1/5 billion dollar juggernaut and a force to be reckoned with, regardless of their own futile attempts to make us believe otherwise.


If the Yanks do have one thing potentially working against them going forward, it may be the seemingly cumbersome oversight of the team by Hank Steinbrenner, whose mid-eighties King George act has only seemed to pick up steam in the months since his father’s passing. Never shy about taking shots across the bow at the opposition, after a round of contentious off-season negotiations with Derek Jeter, and another with CC Sabathia probably looming on the horizon, Prince Hank has turned his ire toward his own team and their front office of late too…a la 80’s George.


One thing’s for sure, Hank’s not George. For now though it appears that he’s working like mad at trying to be, which could mean opportunities ahead for their AL East contemporaries. It arguably wasn’t until George himself was forcibly removed from Yankees operations at the behest of Major League Baseball that the organization finally found the breathing room needed to be champions again. We’ll see if it takes as drastic a circumstance to make Hank realize the same.


#2 – Niets No More


Once the highly anticipated Carmelo Anthony trade took place on Monday, it seemed a safe bet that any other movement set to take place would pale by comparison and largely be an afterthought. That of course changed with the surprising announcement on Wednesday that the Nets had acquired the services of All-Star point guard Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz.


Call them the Niets no more…the New Jersey Nets, seemingly having learned their lesson after the speculation and disappointment surrounding their bid for Carmelo Anthony did a great job at keeping this one under wraps until it was done, and in Williams they have gotten a difference maker, and facilitator that will immediately help get Brook Lopez game back on track, and should provide compelling reasons for future free agents to consider New Jersey or Brooklyn.


After Jerry Sloan’s departure in the midst of his 23rd season just a couple of weeks ago, apparently at least partially due to a rift with his star point guard, it seemed that the team had chosen the young guard over the old coach, and put the aftermath to bed. If nothing else the trade indicates that the team likely wasn’t feeling the same amount of love in return from their playmaker.


It also appears that Utah wasn’t willing to go through the day-in day-out drama next season that they saw the Nuggets having to deal with this year. Conspiracy theorists may also conclude that the uncertain nature of impending collective bargaining and the likelihood that the 2011-12 season may not go off as planned may have compelled the Jazz also to act now, while the getting was good.


No sooner did the news of the trade break than speculation began to abound about the potential return of Sloan to the Jazz now that Williams is no longer an issue. I’d have to guess no. Regardless of Sloan’s reasoning in leaving as he did, he denied reports that Williams was the issue and remained protective of both the player and team on his way out the door. I doubt he’d do a 180 on that stance. What’s more, Sloan’s replacement Tyrone Corbin was an internal promotion from Sloan’s staff, and a player that worked under Sloan for a few seasons as well. The Jazz made no bones from the day of his promotion that interim was not a part of his title. I doubt the former coach or the team would sweep the rug out from under Corbin this quickly. And lastly, without Williams it remains to be seen how the Jazz move forward. Derrick Favors has lots of legitimate upside but joins and already crowded Jazz frontcourt. Devin Harris has big shoes to fill, we’ll see if he’ up to the task. And who knows what the team will make of their draft picks? At least for now, it’s a step back for Utah that Sloan wouldn’t likely be excited about jumping back in with.


#3 – Talking Terps & Tourney


The Terps took the next logical step in attempting to solidify a respectable tournament resume with a win over Florida State on Wednesday. With 3 games remaining on their conference schedule, the most important and most dangerous looks to be the next, coming on Sunday at Chapel Hill. A win against the Tarheels would provide the Terps with their only signature caliber win before they put their case before the NCAA Tournament selection committee. It would also keep them on track to finish conference play with a 10-6 record, and a legitimate shot at a top 4 seed in the conference tourney, giving them a shot at one of the conference’s lower echelon teams and a pseudo-bye in the first round, seemingly providing more fodder to impress the committee.


The Terps sure had their fair share of respectable showings against legitimate competition in the early part of the season, but those likely won’t gain them much favor with the committee. What will though is a spirited run through the remainder of conference play and into the conference tourney. As susceptible as the rest of the conference has been all season, a run through the ACC tourney wouldn’t be out of the question, and would put any bubble issues to bed as well.


What’s certain about this team of late though, is that they aren’t the same team that played good teams close early on, nor are they the same club that dropped a few disappointing games in conference to teams that they arguably should have beaten. No, as young and frenetic as these Terps are, they remain a work in progress. In the last month or so, Pe’Shon Howard has shown a willingness to take and make the big shot, with a propensity to drive into traffic and find open shooters or finishers in the lane. Terrell Stoglin has unleashed the quickest first step seemingly since Steve Francis and is evolving quickly into an adept scorer with other components of his game playing catch up. And how can you ignore the recent growth of Dino Gregory? I’ve said a number of times that Gregory’s athleticism is both encouraging and frustrating. While it has been impressive at times, those times were too few and far between to be overly encouraged about. Recently though, Gregory has unveiled a mid-range game that will have to make opposing frontcourts think twice about stacking the lane to deny Jordan Williams.


In open space Gregory looks much more comfortable than he has at the rim this season. And in February these Terps look much more comfortable in their own skin than they did just a month ago. It’s encouraging to think what both might look like once March comes around…and beyond perhaps.

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Maryland’s tournament hopes still alive after 78-62 win over FSU

Posted on 24 February 2011 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — If their NCAA tournament chances were flatlining following back-to-back road losses to Boston College and Virginia Tech, the Terps discovered a pulse, if only a faint one, on Wednesday night.

Five Maryland players reached double-digit scoring, and the Terps held Florida State to just 39 percent shooting in the second half to seize a convincing 78-62 win over the Seminoles, their first win over a top-50 RPI school this season.

It was the type of performance Gary Williams was waiting for all season despite an ominous start to the evening at Comcast Center.

With the “Wall” nearly empty at tip-off (see below) and not filling much more during the game, the veteran coach was clearly displeased with the lack of student support — evident in his post-game comments thanking those in attendance for “not giving up” and pointing out negativity in the student newspaper.

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Williams couldn’t have felt much better when the Seminoles sprung out to a 9-2 lead two minutes into the game with all points coming from the sharp-shooting Deividas Dulkys. The opening looked and felt like the disastrous 12-0 start against Virginia Tech last month, a game in which the Terps never found the energy or effort to make it competitive in a 17-point home loss.

Instead of sleepwalking as it did against the Hokies, Maryland awoke from the early lapse to answer Florida State’s high-energy level in what amounted to a frenetic first half before the Terps overwhelmed the Seminoles after intermission, outscoring them, 40-25. Defensively, the Terps (18-10, 7-6 ACC) held Florida State to 39 percent shooting in the second half to complete one of its best all-around performances of the season.

“Guys are getting comfortable with each other,” said Williams, who labeled his team’s man-to-man defense in the second half the finest it had played in awhile. “It takes time. Landon [Milbourne], Eric Hayes and Greivis [Vasquez] were four-year seniors [last year]. Now we’ve got three freshmen out there some of the time. It’s a little different.”

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Whether the gelling of this team has come too late remains to be seen, but the Terps took a step toward the postseason bubble — they’re not there yet — with a win over the third-place team in the ACC.

Chris Singleton or not — Florida State was without its leading scorer for the second straight game after the junior broke his right foot against Virginia on Feb. 12 — this was a big one for a Maryland team needing a quality win for both its hollow tournament resume and confidence with March quickly approaching.

Florida State entered the game leading the country in field-goal percentage defense, but Maryland shot 51 percent from the field, becoming only the second team to reach the 50-percent mark against the Seminoles this season. The Terps did it without a dominating performance from Jordan Williams, who still earned his 21st double-double of the year with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

After searching all season for a consistent scoring option behind the sophomore star, freshman Terrell Stoglin turned in a strong 17-point performance — 14 coming in the second half — but was only one of four other Terps (Dino Gregory, Adrian Bowie, and Sean Mosley the others) to contribute double digits to the point total. Maryland also went 7-for-14 from 3-point range after attempting only one shot from beyond the arc in Sunday’s win over North Carolina State.

The balanced effort certainly builds confidence as the Terps are now faced with a trip to Chapel Hill to challenge No. 19 North Carolina on Sunday night. A win over the Tar Heels would propel Maryland back into the NCAA tournament discussion, which is about as much as the Terps can ask for at this stage.

“This [win] definitely builds our confidence,” said Jordan Williams, who passed the 600-rebound mark for his career and joined Joe Smith as only the second Terp to reach the plateau as a sophomore. “North Carolina is a great team with a great coach. We are excited for the challenge.”

A tall challenge it will be as Maryland has a final attempt to beat a top-25 opponent in the regular season. Of course, the Terps have found themselves knocking loudly for a big victory several times this the season.

Only to smash their fingers in the door at the worst possible time.

Though a win seems unlikely, Sunday’s meeting with the Tar Heels is the kind of game Gary Williams has managed to win many times throughout his distinguished career.

Left for dead a little over a week ago, Maryland is suddenly playing like a team that doesn’t want to settle for the NIT.

“We’re a better team now,” Gary Williams said. “I knew it would be a process this year. It takes time to develop a team. I think we’re laying the groundwork here with this year’s team for very good things to happen in the future, but we want to win as many games as we can this year.”

The Terps still have a long way to go to even think about the bubble, their body of work, or their RPI (a modest 85th entering Wednesday night’s game), but they inched a step closer to the discussion with a win over one of the better teams in the conference.

And for now, that’s all Gary Williams and the Terps can do.

An even larger step will be available Sunday night.

NOTES: Maryland is 7-0 against the Seminoles in Comcast Center. … Williams’ double-double left him one shy of the single-season school record set by Len Elmore (22) in 1974. … Stoglin is averaging 19.2 points per game over his last five contests and has made 23 of 24 free throws in his last three games. … Gregory’s 14 points gave him double-digit scoring for the fifth consecutive game. … Five Terps reached double-digit scoring for the fourth time in the last five games. The exception was Sunday’s win over NC State when Maryland had four players in double figures.

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Terps finish strong to top NC State, 87-80

Posted on 20 February 2011 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — With the backdrop of Greivis Vasquez’s jersey being raised to the rafters and the 10th anniversary celebration of the 2001 Final Four team, Maryland had plenty of extra motivation Sunday to rebound from its disappointing two-game road trip that’s left their tournament hopes in major jeopardy.

And bounce back they did, using career performances from Terrell Stoglin and Dino Gregory as well as a game-high 26 points from Jordan Williams to give the Terps an 87-80 victory over North Carolina State, giving Maryland (17-10, 6-6 ACC) only its third win of the season in games decided by 10 points or fewer.

“It seems like every game when we’re down or when we’re fighting a team we can’t get that win,” Williams said. “And tonight when I looked up and we were about to win the game, I was like, ‘It’s about time, we finally got over that hump.'”

The sophomore forward scored 26 points in the first 28 minutes of the game but was held scoreless in the final 12, leaving him one point shy of his career mark. It forced the Terps to look elsewhere for the means to finish off a close game, a task Maryland has struggled with immensely throughout the season.

Stoglin’s 25 points and nine assists — both career highs — and Gregory’s career-best 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds provided the complementary production the Terps have sorely lacked in these types of games all season. The freshman point guard from Tuscon, Ariz. has scored 50 points in his last two games, emerging as the team’s second-best scoring option down the stretch.

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Williams, Stoglin, and Gregory combined for 69 of Maryland’s 87 points, but one of the game’s most critical contributions was made by struggling junior Sean Mosley.

In the midst of a disappointing season that’s seen his scoring average drop from 10.1 points a year ago to just 8.5, Mosley came off the bench for just the second time this season (replaced in the starting lineup by Cliff Tucker) and chipped in 10 points, eight in the second half.

Mosley’s running basket with 5:18 to play broke a 71-71 tie and gave Maryland the lead for good. The Baltimore native would score six of eight Maryland points over a 2:18 stretch to turn another potentially uncomfortable finish into a much-needed victory to keep the Terps’ slim NCAA tournament hopes — in terms of their regular season resume anyway — alive for a few more days.

“Sean Mosley came off the bench and was great,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “He could have pouted but he didn’t. He just came out to play, and we needed him. I thought he did a great job.”

Maryland shot a season-best 58.2 percent on the night, but trailed 40-38 at halftime due to 10 first-half turnovers that led to 17 Wolfpack points. Behind Stoglin and fellow freshmen Pe’Shon Howard, Maryland had just two turnovers to 10 assists after intermission.

The two freshmen started in the backcourt together for the first time, providing optimism for the remainder of the season and beyond that.

“Honestly, it was fun [playing beside Howard],” Stoglin said. “Pe’Shon and I are real close, so we got to start together, so it felt real good. Instead of battling each other for that position, we got to play and share it together.”

Maryland’s 87 points — their second-highest total in ACC play this season — came without the benefit of a 3-pointer after attempting only one triple in the entire game.

The Terps now shift their attention to Wednesday night’s battle with Florida State in College Park before traveling to Chapel Hill next weekend. Unlikely as it might be, wins in both games would put Maryland back in the tournament picture as the calendar turns to March.

“We’ve just got to take it game by game,” Jordan Williams said. “Every opportunity to play we’ve got to go out there with the mindset that we’re going to win the game and that’s what we did today.”

It’s a mindset Maryland will need to grip desperately down the stretch.

NOTES: The Terps are now tied for sixth in the conference standings with Boston College. … Maryland now leads the all-time seriese with NC State, 75-72, and has won eight in a row over the Wolfpack. … Gregory posted the third double-double of his career and hit double digits in scoring for the fourth straight game. … Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Greivis Vasquez, Gary Williams, and Terrell Stoglin.

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Tournament hopes grow fainter in Terps’ 76-72 loss to BC

Posted on 12 February 2011 by Luke Jones

He might not be Mr. October, but Boston College’s Reggie Jackson dealt a postseason blow to Maryland that would have made the Hall of Fame slugger proud on Saturday afternoon.

Jackson’s career-high 31 points on 12-for-16 shooting led the Eagles to a 76-72 victory over the Terps in Chestnut Hill, putting Maryland’s NCAA tournament hopes on life support with six games remaining in the regular season.

Five Maryland players reached double figures, but the Terps could not overcome Jackson’s heroics as the junior guard went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc to give the Eagles the season sweep. Boston College improved to 6-5 in the ACC while the Terps dropped to 5-5 in the conference.

Dino Gregory led the Terps with 15 points while freshmen guards Pe’Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin each had 14 points and combined for 10 assists. Jordan Williams, frustrated for much of the afternoon by double-teams in the paint, finished with just 12 points and eight rebounds.

Other than a brief time early in the first half, the Eagles had no problem with Maryland’s full-court press and shot 48.2 percent from the field, often getting easy looks in the process.

The game featured two of the biggest stars in the Atlantic Coast Conference in Jackson and Williams, but it also exposed the biggest reason why the Terps have struggled to win games when they’ve mattered the most. Jackson was able to touch the ball nearly every time down the floor — and did not disappoint when he did — while Maryland’s big man took only seven shots in 34 minutes of play.

While Howard and Stoglin played admirably to keep the Terps in the game, Maryland’s veteran trio of guards — Adrian Bowie, Sean Mosley, and Cliff Tucker — went a combined 7-for-24 from the field and committed six turnovers. Defensively, Maryland’s backcourt players appeared slower and were unable to generate the second-half spark needed out of the press to win a game they desperately needed to have.

In fact, Tucker and Bowie found themselves confined to the bench for much of the second half as Gary Williams went with Howard and Stoglin down the stretch as his senior guards came up empty in the most crucial game of the season to this point.

Despite plenty of rhetoric about urgency and the need to play a consistent 40-minute game against the better teams on the schedule, Maryland (16-9, 5-5 ACC) once again fell short against a formidable opponent. The Terps had won five of their last six games entering Saturday’s game, but only one was against an opponent ranked in the RPI’s top 100 (a 79-77 win over Clemson on January 22).

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All season long, fans have lamented poor free-throw shooting, ill-timed scoring droughts, and shaky guard play as reasons why the Terps had fallen short against the Pittsburghs, Villanova, and Dukes of the college basketball world. Once Maryland would straighten out those issues, they’d be in business. They weren’t that far away in many optimists’ minds.

Alas, the old principle Occam’s razor roughly states the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

This Maryland team just isn’t that good.

An 0-8 record against top-50 RPI teams supports that sobering claim.

The Terps’ NCAA tournament hopes aren’t completely dead yet, but that dream grows weaker by the day. A win at Virginia Tech on Tuesday night followed by wins in at least four of their final five games (with a presumed loss at North Carolina) would put Maryland at 10-6 in the ACC.

And, of course, a 2004-like run in the ACC tournament can never be ruled out, no matter how unlikely it seems. That John Gilchrist-led squad was 7-9 in the ACC before winning three straight games in the Greensboro Coliseum — though the current 12-team format is far more daunting.

But the difference among those other bubble teams of the past decade and this year’s team is the absence of a backcourt player that can carry the team on his back such as Gilchrist in 2004 or Greivis Vasquez in his four years at Maryland. As terrific as Williams has been in the low post all season long, success at the collegiate level is bred by quality guard play, something the Terps haven’t had on a consistent basis this season.

If it hasn’t shown up in the middle of February, how much longer do you wait before acknowledging that train simply isn’t coming?

Perhaps the strong performances by Stoglin and Howard — not to mention both being on the floor in the closing minutes — provide hope for the future, but the clock appears close to striking midnight on Maryland’s NCAA tournament hopes.

And the shoe sure doesn’t look like it fits.

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Terps squash Longwood, now face make-or-break road stretch

Posted on 10 February 2011 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — You’d be hard pressed to find a more lopsided affair than independent Longwood traveling to Comcast Center to meet the Terps on Wednesday night.

With just one starter taller than 6-foot-2, the Lancers were overmatched, overwhelmed, and overawed by Maryland in a merciless 106-52 beating.

The Terps (16-8, 5-4 ACC) exploded to an early 11-0 lead and never relented as junior Sean Mosley led all scorers with 20 points while sophomore star Jordan Williams dealt with surprising foul trouble against the undersized Lancers (8-19), finishing with just nine points and 11 rebounds.

Maryland held an overwhelming 55-28 edge on the glass, its biggest margin of the season.

Six players reached double-digit scoring for the Terps as they concluded the non-conference portion of their schedule, finishing a perfect 10-0 at home against out-of-conference foes. Perhaps more impressive than the scoring output was the Terps’ season-high 28 assists, giving them 55 in their last two games.

“You still have to make shots,” said Gary Williams, who earned his 665th career victory to pass legendary UCLA coach John Wooden on the all-time wins list. “It’s one thing to make the pass, but we finished off some really good passes tonight. I think that was a key also.”

With their final gimme now in the books, the Terps now face their most critical stretch of the season as two ACC road games against Boston College and Virginia Tech loom over the next seven days. Maryland fell to both schools at home, collapsing down the stretch in a 79-75 loss to the Eagles on December 12 and suffering a humiliating 74-57 rout to the Hokies nearly three weeks ago.

At 5-4 and currently tied for fifth with Virginia Tech and only a half-game ahead of Boston College in the ACC, the Terps badly need the next two games to not only extract revenge but separate themselves from the middle-of-the-pack in a down year for the conference. Maryland’s margin for error is small as it eyes the consensus 10-6 (or better?) mark needed to put itself in the good graces of the NCAA selection committee.

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For a team that expressed a need for urgency after last week’s blowout loss to Duke, now would be the ideal time to see it. If it’s again absent in Chestnut Hill and Blacksburg, it may be too late to reach a third straight NCAA tournament bid — short of winning the ACC tournament next month.

In a season full of “not quite good enough” performances, the next two games will likely make or break the Terps’ postseason aspirations.

“We know [this stretch is] going to be tough,” Mosley said. “We come out and take one game at a time and play 40 minutes hard each game. It’s not going to be a cakewalk. It’s definitely going to be competition.”

Working in Maryland’s favor is its success on the road in conference play, holding a 3-1 record with wins at Wake Forest, Virginia, and Georgia Tech. However, far more challenging tests await the Terps as they try to substantiate their road mettle.

The time is now for freshmen Pe’Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin to assert themselves in the conference. Their head coach spoke about their continued improvement and maturity following Wednesday’s game. A combined 26 points and 10 assists look great against the Lancers, but the temptation in trying to do too much will be even stronger over the next week.

And with that, Williams will lean on his upperclassmen for leadership in preparing for the final seven regular season games and handling the pressure of playing in hostile environments. The Terps will also fight the temptation of focusing on what’s happening elsewhere given their uncertain tournament standing.

“Don’t worry about [scoreboard watching],” said Gregory, who scored 14 points and 11 rebounds. “As long as we win our games and focus on what we’ve got to do to get to the NCAA tournament, that’s all you have to do. Just focus on one [game] at a time.”

The Terps said all the right things and were well-versed on their clichés after their glorified scrimmage with the junior-varsity-like Lancers. Whether they’ve truly learned from their past shortcomings in big games remains to be seen.

“I thought we played well tonight,” Gary Williams said. “It’s a little difficult to tell [how much we’ve improved].

“But we’ll know Saturday.”

NOTES: Maryland is 8-0 when scoring 80 or more points and reached 100 points for the second time this season. The 54-point margin of victory ranked 13th in school history and was the biggest since a 62-point win over Chicago State on Dec. 27, 2000. … Maryland set season highs in 3-pointers made (10) and attempted (28). … Adrian Bowie scored in double figures for the eight time in the last nine games and had six assists. … The Terps are 4-0 with the starting lineup of Howard, Bowie, Mosley, Gregory, and Williams. … The University of Maryland will honor Greivis Vasquez at Comcast Center on February 20 in a game against N.C. State. Maryland will honor Vasquez’s No. 21 jersey by raising it to the rafters, but the program does not retire jersey numbers.

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