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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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Terps rebound against Wake Forest, 91-70

Posted on 05 February 2011 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Bouncing back quickly from an 18-point loss to your biggest rival is always a challenge, even when the next game is against the worst team in the conference.

Despite Gary Williams’ concern that his team would come out flat Saturday afternoon, the Terps did exactly what was expected of them as they blew out hapless Wake Forest, 91-70, at Comcast Center.

Maryland controlled the tempo throughout the afternoon, holding a double-digit lead for a large portion of the game. After the Demon Deacons narrowed the edge to 60-50 with 10:07 to play, the Terps used a 13-0 run to hammer the final nail in the coffin and improve to 5-4 in the ACC.

Jordan Williams matched a career-high 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for his NCAA-leading 20th double-double of the season. Adrian Bowie added 13 points and six assists and Cliff Tucker chipped in 10 points off the bench. Defensively, the Terps forced 19 turnovers, scoring 21 points off the Wake Forest miscues.

“You get knocked down [after a loss], you get up,” the Maryland coach said. “It’s no more complicated than that.”

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The Terps (15-8) didn’t need much to knock down the Demon Deacons (8-15, 1-7 ACC), who fell to Maryland twice this season by a combined 40 points. Wanting to ensure his team began the game with extra energy, Williams started freshman Pe’Shon Howard to give both his team and the crowd an extra boost. Howard responded by scoring nine points and matching a career-high eight assists to just one turnover in 32 minutes of play.

His flashy — yet under control — passing overwhelmed the Demon Deacons as the Terps finished the game with a staggering 27 assists to just seven turnovers.

With the point guard position appearing convoluted for much of the season, Howard appears to have established himself at the position — at least for now. Fellow freshman Terrell Stoglin played 12 minutes, but had five assists of his own and two turnovers.

“[Howard] gives off a vibration that no matter if he makes a bad play or good play, he’s going to try really hard on the next play,” Williams said. “I see that just coaching him, I get that feeling. He can throw a ball away, but he’s not going to hang his head. He’s going to go down and play very good defense in that possession. I think fans pick up on that. They see who the tough guys are in those situations.”

Saturday’s result was exponentially better than Howard’s last start, which came against Virginia Tech on January 20. Starting in place of Terrell Stoglin (who had arrived late for a previous team function), Howard struggled against the Hokies, going 0-for-5 from the field and committing three turnovers over 19 minutes in a humbling 74-57 home loss. While Wake Forest didn’t pose much of a challenge collectively, Howard says he learned from that experience against the Hokies.

“The difference [with starting] is just the game starts off a lot faster,” Howard said. “The last start I had was the Virginia Tech game, and I don’t think I prepared myself as well. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think [Saturday] I just came out relaxed, made sure I got the team ready to play, and that was just the biggest thing. I didn’t want it to be the same result.”

Maryland did exactly what it was expected to do — and needed to do — at home against an inferior team. The Terps will now host the independent Longwood Lancers (8-17) on Wednesday in what amounts to a glorified scrimmage before the conference schedule resumes with a revenge game at Boston College on Saturday.

The Terps have plenty of work ahead if they want to paint themselves as a legitimate NCAA tournament contender, but Saturday’s win over Wake Forest was a positive step, even if nearly a foregone conclusion entering the day.

“It’s definitely a huge win,” Jordan Williams said. “Coach Williams said before the game that the best part about sports is that you get to come out and play again after a tough loss. That’s what we did today. We got a chance to play again and we came out ahead.”

NOTES: Williams earned his 664th career win on Saturday, pulling even with legendary UCLA coach John Wooden on the all-time wins list. “If you look at John Wooden, what he did was he glamorized the game. In addition to winning all those championships, he glamorized college basketball.” … Haukur Palsson scored a career-high nine points in 17 minutes. … The Terps outscored Wake Forest in the paint, 36-24, and held the rebounding edge, 39-33. … Maryland wore its white uniforms for just the second time in ACC play this season. The Terps are 0-3 wearing gold (losing to Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Duke) and 2-0 in white (Clemson and Wake Forest) in their five conference home games. … The Terps’ seven turnovers were a season low.

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Lights go out on Terps in 80-62 loss to Duke

Posted on 03 February 2011 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — As media waited for Gary Williams’ post-game press conference, the lights went out in the auxiliary gymnasium where the Maryland coach speaks to reporters after games.

It was an appropriate ending to a disappointing night for the Terps in an 80-62 loss to No. 5 Duke, a game in which Maryland tried to climb back in it at several points behind an electric atmosphere at Comcast Center.

Poor shooting, the surrendering of second-chance baskets, and lackadaisical perimeter defense spelled out what anyone who watched Wednesday night’s game could plainly see.

“It’s a team thing,” said Williams, questioning his team’s energy level much like he did after a home loss to Virginia Tech two weeks ago. “You have to be ready to play. You have to believe that you can win that game. That’s what we have to work on.”

To beat Duke, Maryland (14-8, 4-4 ACC) needed to play a near-perfect game to compensate for their deficiencies on the perimeter, using its size and playing tough defense (ranked ninth in the nation in opponent field-goal percentage entering Wednesday night’s game) to knock off the more-talented Blue Devils.

The Terps did neither as Duke (20-2, 7-1 ACC) scored 18 second-chance points and went 10-for-23 from 3-point range. Maryland was outrebounded 34 to 31 and allowed Duke to shoot 52.6 percent from the field.

Even when given opportunities to take control in the first half as three Duke starters battled foul trouble, Maryland fell behind by 15 points before a late run cut the deficit to seven at the half.

Offensively, Jordan Williams again led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds despite being swarmed in the paint, as the Duke defense had no reason to respect any other options offensively for the Terps. Maryland shot just 40 percent from the field and went 2-for-9 from beyond the arc.

The Terps cut the Duke lead to five with 9:20 remaining, but the Blue Devils responded with a 10-3 run to push the deficit to 66-54 with 5:42 to play. Maryland would not challenge again.

“It’s hard coming back,” Williams said. “You have to really dig down deep against a good team, and then when you do, to get over the top that’s when it gets tough. I don’t know what happened to tell you the truth. I’d have to look at that and see exactly what happened.”

The Terps coach refrained from expressing what’s become painfully obvious about this team 22 games into the season.

Against the stiffest competition, Maryland doesn’t have enough to complement the fantastic play of Williams.

Not nearly enough.

Yes, Cliff Tucker has had his moments — he scored only seven points in Wednesday’s loss — in an up-and-down career as a role player. Adrian Bowie has played well since sliding to the off-guard position, chipping in 11 points against the Blue Devils, but lacks the size and perimeter game to be a consistent threat night in and night out.

And freshmen point guards Terrell Stoglin and Pe’Shon Howard have shown enough promise that they can be effective backcourt players in the ACC — one day.

But when the chips are down against the better teams, Williams is the only man the Terps can count on, a difficult proposition with a player who doesn’t handle the ball in the guard-dependent world of college basketball.

In contrast, Duke’s senior leadership — and overall ability — prevented the Terps from really challenging despite cutting the lead to five in the second half. Forward Kyle Singler had 22 points — 13 in the second half — while guard Nolan Smith scored 13 points after halftime to finish with 21. Even underclassmen Andre Dawkins (three 3-pointers) and Seth Curry (two triples) hit shots at opportune times for the Blue Devils, who avenged an embarrassing 15-point loss at St. John’s on Sunday in an emphatic way.

Maryland simply lacks the guard play necessary to beat good teams, at least with any kind of consistency. While it’s easy to say the Terps should give the ball to Williams every time down the floor, you need the players to get him the ball in the optimum position to score. And it certainly doesn’t help that defenses can collapse the lane at will, with no real trepidation of being burned by the perimeter shot.

“I felt like they couldn’t stop me without fouling me,” the Maryland sophomore said. “That’s why I tried to get the ball inside more. They did a good job of getting guys on me. We need to hit shots. I missed a couple of shots towards the end that I normally make. It’s an all-around team effort.”

An all-around team effort that has now produced the Terps’ two biggest margins of defeat (a 17-point defeat to Virginia Tech on January 20 being the second worst) in the nine-year history of Comcast Center.

To be fair, no one expected the Terps to be as good as they were last season after the departure of Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Landon Milbourne, but two blowout ACC losses — at home — are tough pills to swallow.

Despite the disappointment of Wednesday’s loss to Duke, the Terps still have plenty to play for in terms of their postseason hopes. Whether they’re good enough is the real question as they continue deeper into February.

“We have to win games, that’s the bottom line,” Jordan Williams said. “We don’t have a quality win under our belt. We beat some tough teams, but we don’t have a win against a ranked opponent. … We just have to keep moving forward and trying to improve.”

The Terps should find few problems in their next two games as they host Wake Forest Saturday and Longwood next Wednesday night in what amounts to a pseudo bye week before back-to-back road games at Boston College and Virginia Tech in mid-February, critical contests indetermining their postseason fate. Gary Williams will undoubtedly use the next week to challenge his players’ intestinal fortitude and prepare them for the second half of the conference schedule.

Finding alternative options to Jordan Williams as well as the consistent, 40-minute effort will be the continued quest in determining the Terps’ destiny over the regular season’s final month.

“There comes a point in the season where you either do it or you don’t do it,” Gary Williams said. “There’s no magic answers to those situations. You have to get it done.”

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Maryland-Duke pre-game notes

Posted on 02 February 2011 by Luke Jones

***Join us in the Turtle Power live chat as Maryland battles Duke at Comcast Center beginning at 9:00***

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — All season the Terps have been slapped with the “not quite good enough” label after a number of opportunities to knock off quality opponents only to fall short every time.

Maryland (14-7, 4-3 ACC) will have another chance — perhaps its best one — tonight as No. 5 Duke (19-2, 6-1 ACC) comes to College Park for a rematch less than a month after the Blue Devils bested the Terps in a narrow 71-64 contest at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 9.

The Terps are riding a three-game winning streak while Duke has had three days to stew over its embarrassing 93-78 loss at St. John’s on Sunday afternoon. Despite being the consensus favorite in the ACC all season long, the Blue Devils find themselves tied for first place in the conference after North Carolina’s blowout over Boston College Tuesday night.

Maryland must rely on its defense to contain the sharpshooting Blue Devils and should be up to the task on paper. The Terps rank ninth in the nation in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to just 38.2 percent shooting this season. Duke leads the ACC in scoring offense, field goals, 3-point field goals, free throws, and turnover margin.

To pull off the upset, the Terps will need another huge performance by sophomore Jordan Williams, who scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the teams’ first meeting in Durham. Seniors Kyle Singler (25 points) and Nolan Smith (18 points) led the way for the Blue Devils.

Of course, last season’s meeting in College Park was a classic as Maryland prevailed 79-72 and the teams shared the regular season conference championship. The Terps are 4-4 against the Blue Devils in the brief history of the nine-year old Comcast Center. Maryland is 37-38 all-time in College Park against Duke.

Tonight’s game will be televised on ESPN with Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas calling the action. Join us WNST.net in the Turtle Power live chat beginning at 9:00 as I bring live updates from College Park. Remember to follow us on Twitter for the quickest updates and analysis throughout the evening.

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Terps not pretty, but pick up 74-63 win at Georgia Tech

Posted on 31 January 2011 by Luke Jones

Gary Williams admitted moments after a 74-63 win at Georgia Tech Sunday night he does not have a very pretty team this year.

But the Maryland head coach would rather win ugly than lose with style any day of the week.

It fits his personality, and this year’s team epitomizes the underdog, scrappy persona Williams has carried throughout his brilliant 22-year career in College Park.

The Terps failed to make a 3-point field goal (0-for-6) and went scoreless for nearly five minutes late in the second half as they wilted against the Georgia Tech press, but Maryland’s defensive efforts managed to take care of the Yellow Jackets at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, a place where Georgia Tech was undefeated in conference play and had defeated its three opponents (North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech) by a combined 70 points.

The Terps picked up their third conference road win of the season, a mark no other ACC team has reached at the end of January.

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The only outcome you can expect from Maryland (14-7, 4-3 ACC) on a given night is Jordan Williams to lead the way in points and rebounds, doing so again with 21 points and 15 rebounds after his double-double streak was snapped at 13 against Virginia earlier in the week. Contributions from others vary from game to game and even half to half, a major reason why the Terps are both compelling and highly frustrating to watch this year.

Three nights after going scoreless in Charlottesville, junior Sean Mosley rebounded with 16 points, ending a wild eight-day period in which he was benched against Clemson, failed to score against Virginia, and was the Terps’ second-leading scorer against the Yellow Jackets. His effort helped push the Terps into a fourth-place tie with Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Clemson as Maryland eyes a return bout with Duke at Comcast Center on Wednesday night.

Freshman point guard Terrell Stoglin added 13 points, but he and Pe’Shon Howard struggled in handling the Yellow Jackets’ full-court pressure, turning what was a comfortable 65-52 advantage with 8:14 to play into a four-point nail-biter with 3:30 remaining before the Terps made their free throws down the stretch to earn the 11-point win. The Terps made an impressive — by their standards, anyway — 75 percent (24-for-32) of their attempts from the line in the game.

The difference for the Terps was their stifling defense, forcing 17 turnovers and holding the Yellow Jackets to just 39.7 percent shooting. Maryland entered the game ninth in the nation in opponent field-goal percentage, holding foes to 38.1 percent shooting. Georgia Tech played without its third-leading scorer Brian Oliver who was suffering from the flu.

Maryland can exhale after taking care of business on a brief two-game road trip that resulted in two victories, but cannot rest long as the seething Blue Devils come to College Park this week after an embarrassing 93-78 loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon. Duke hasn’t lost consecutive games since February 2009, a sobering thought for Terps fans as Maryland has a final shot at the signature win it so desperately wants to add to its postseason resume.

However, Duke hasn’t been the imposing force it looked to be early in the season since losing freshman sensation Kyrie Irving. The Blue Devils lack the girth inside they had a season ago and look far from a championship contender at this point.

To say the Blue Devils are ripe for the picking would be overstating things, but Maryland should feel plenty confident after playing a competitive game — albeit a 71-64 loss — in Durham on January 9.

With three straight victories after a humiliating home loss to Virginia Tech 10 days ago, the Terps have repositioned themselves in the top half of the ACC and for a realistic push to make the NCAA tournament. Aside from Williams’ work in the paint, the Terps do nothing to dazzle you, but a 3-1 road conference record reflects their strong defensive work this season.

The Terps can prove Wednesday night whether this current three-game winning streak is more a product of the opponents they played or the signal of a turning point after the Hokies humbled them on their home floor on January 20.

It won’t be easy — or very pretty — but these are the types of games Gary Williams has lived for throughout his career.

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Bowie leads Terps to blowout at Virginia, 66-42

Posted on 27 January 2011 by Luke Jones

Given the Terps’ past struggles in Charlottesville and the snow-challenged, six-hour trek they experienced just getting there Wednesday night, you can understand fans’ trepidation entering Thursday’s contest at John Paul Jones Arena.

On top of that, if you were told Jordan Williams would be held to just four points and six rebounds — snapping his school record of 13 consecutive double-doubles — you might have said a 24-point victory would have been more likely for the home Cavaliers than visiting Maryland.

However, seniors Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker combined for 35 points and the Terps used a dominating second half on their way to a 66-42 blowout win over Virginia as Maryland (13-7, 3-3) evened its mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The win marks the Terps’ largest margin of victory ever in Charlottesville

Despite a commendable effort by seven-footer Assane Sene and the Cavaliers defense to stifle Williams, the Terps looked to their seniors to pick up the offensive slack, and that’s exactly what they did. Bowie’s season-best 22 points were one shy of his career high, and Tucker’s 13 marked the eighth time in nine games the sixth man has reached double-digit scoring.  Their efforts were more than enough to overwhelm the offensively-challenged Cavaliers, who have now dropped four of their last five and clearly miss the leadership and scoring of forward Mike Scott (gone for the season with an ankle injury).

Maryland went 7-for-15 from beyond the arc, continuing the sharp shooting it discovered in Saturday’s win over Clemson, and outscored the Cavaliers by 19 points in the second half while holding them to 32.7 percent shooting on the night.

Freshmen point guards Terrell Stoglin and Pe’Shon Howard turned in strong performances in the victory as the pair combined for 16 points, seven assists, and only one turnover, looking comfortable running the offense throughout the night.

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Only a week ago, Gary Williams challenged his seniors following an embarrassing home loss to Virginia Tech, emphasizing the need for leadership and to complement Jordan Williams’ offensive contributions. If the last two games are any indication, it’s safe to say Bowie, Tucker, and Dino Gregory (eight points and five rebounds) heard the message loud and clear.

Of course, no one should get too excited with a blowout victory over unimpressive Virginia, but 24-point road victories are few and far between in the ACC (unless you’re playing Wake Forest, who might go down this year as one of the worst teams in the long history of the conference). The Terps cannot earn their way to an NCAA tournament berth with any one victory — though a win over No. 3 Duke would be a major star for their nondescript profile — but this team needs to take notes from last season’s regular season co-champions.

And that lesson is winning the games you’re supposed to, a feat taken for granted but one that allowed the 2009-10 team to lock up an NCAA tournament bid without having a signature non-conference win.

Clearly, this year’s team lacks the experience and talent to approach the 13-3 conference record that Greivis Vasquez and company achieved a year ago, but Maryland — and the rest of what looks like a mediocre pool of ACC teams behind Duke — has given no indication that it can’t be one of the top four or five teams in the conference. A favorable schedule that includes second meetings with Virginia and Wake Forest gives the Terrapins an opportunity to stack more wins and move closer to the 10-6 mark that would likely be enough to secure a tournament bid.

The margin for error is small, especially after home losses to Boston College and Virginia Tech, and road wins over schools like Virginia and Georgia Tech — who the Terps play Sunday night to conclude a two-game road trip — are an absolute must.

With next Wednesday’s home rematch with Duke on the horizon, the Terps must handle business in Atlanta against the Yellow Jackets (10-9), whose 3-3 conference record includes blowout wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech. If the Terps have real aspirations of playing meaningful games in the middle of March, they will get by Georgia Tech, a team who lost at Virginia last weekend and fell to Kennesaw State and Siena earlier in the season.

For Maryland’s two-game winning streak to turn into the roll it needs for the season’s final six weeks, the increased contributions from the three seniors need to continue after Williams bounces back from his quietest performance of the season.

The Terps still haven’t put it all together, but emphatically exorcising the demons in Charlottesville shouldn’t be ignored completely.

If the last two games are any indication of what we can expect in February, an invitation to the NCAA tournament is still very much within reach for the Terps.

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Maryland-Virginia: Turtle Power live chat at 7:00

Posted on 27 January 2011 by Luke Jones

***Join us in the Turtle Power live chat at 7:00 as Maryland takes on the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena.***

The Terps travel to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers in the first of two meetings this season as both teams try to rise from the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Maryland (12-7, 2-3 ACC) begins a two-game road trip after a badly-needed win over Clemson last Saturday afternoon. The Cavaliers (11-8, 2-3 ACC) are coming off a victory over Georgia Tech last Saturday, snapping a three-game losing streak in Tony Bennett’s second season as head coach.

Sophomore Jordan Williams will look to build upon his record 13th straight double-double, an achievement he reached against the Tigers last weekend. Williams also eclipsed the 500-rebound mark on Saturday, becoming just the third Maryland player and 20th ACC player overall to reach the plateau as a sophomore. Joe Smith and Buck Williams were the first two Terps to grab 500 career rebounds in their first two seasons in College Park.

The Cavaliers are led by senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan, who averages 13.0 points per game to lead their four-guard starting lineup. Seven-footer Assane Sene starts at center and will draw the task of containing the Terps’ star big man in the paint — not an easy task.

Tonight will also mark Gary Williams’ 700th game as head coach at Maryland.

This evening’s game can be seen on Comcast SportsNet with Michael Reghi, Ron Thompson, and Junior Burrough providing the call from Charlottesville. Join us in the Turtle Power live chat beginning at 7:00 and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates and analysis.

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Terps use team effort to slide by Clemson, 79-77

Posted on 22 January 2011 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Gary Williams labeled his players a “fragile” group after competitive losses to Duke and Villanova and Thursday night’s debacle against Virginia Tech over the last two weeks.

His team’s psyche had to feel even more tenuous in the final seconds Saturday, as a planned free throw miss by Cliff Tucker inexplicably rolled out of bounds, giving Clemson’s Demontez Stitt a chance at a half-court prayer to win the game. However, the shot bounced off the backboard as time expired, giving Maryland (12-7, 2-3 ACC) a 79-77 win over Clemson.

“We had to find a way to win that game, and I knew it wasn’t going to be a 20-point win,” said Williams, referencing Maryland’s once-comfortable 13-point lead in the first half. “Clemson’s too good.”

Badly needing a victory to right the ship and avoid a 1-4 start in the ACC, the Terps used a balance scoring attack as four players reached double figures, led by Jordan Williams’ 16 points and 11 rebounds. The sophomore set a new school record with his 13th straight double-double, breaking Len Elmore’s previous record set in the 1973-74 season.

“It is very cool,” the sophomore said. “I never came in expecting to get a record my sophomore year or at all. I just want to do whatever I can to help us get the win with that record. It’s a great honor to be in the same category as Len Elmore.”

Unlike recent games, the Terps were able to efficiently deliver the ball to Williams in the paint as Maryland’s outside shooting prevented Clemson (13-6, 2-3 ACC) from copying the strategy of collapsing inside that teams had employed in recent weeks. The Terps went 6-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half and 8-for-14 in the game. Terrell Stoglin and Cliff Tucker each made three shots from beyond the arc, as many of Maryland’s outside looks came off dribble penetration.

It was the Terps’ second most efficient performance from beyond the arc this season, with only a 9-for-15 performance against NJIT trumping that.

Perhaps more encouraging than any other factor was Maryland’s ability to make free throws down the stretch in a close contest, a deficiency that’s plagued the Terps throughout the season. Maryland shot 23-35 (65.7 percent) from the free-throw line in the game, but the Terps were 10-for-13 from the charity stripe in the final two minutes.

One of those misses was Tucker’s intentional miss with 1.6 seconds left that inexplicably bounced off the rim and went out of bounds to set up Clemson for a final unsuccessful shot to win the game.

“I’ve never seen that in my life, in like 1,200 games,” said the coach about the last-second drama. “I never saw that. I don’t know how it got out of bounds, the angle it got out of bounds. It’s just like, ‘Oh, no. Here we go.'”

Terrell Stoglin and Adrian Bowie returned to the starting lineup after Tucker and Pe’Shon Howard made the start against the Hokies Thursday night, and the Terps turned in strong performance offensively, shooting 50 percent from the field and handing out 16 assists to only 10 turnovers against the Tigers.

The other surprising change to the lineup was freshman Haukur Palsson replacing Sean Mosley in a move intended to ignite some early energy for the Terps, according to Williams. Two quick fouls quickly sent Palsson to the bench, but the spark was present throughout the day and countered Clemson’s ability to answer every Maryland run.

It was the fifth lineup Maryland had used this season as Williams continues to search for consistency in the backcourt.

“Our offense was probably as efficient as it’s been in awhile,” Williams said. “We shot 50 percent against a good defensive team. Clemson is a team that’s been winning. You can tell that by the way they play. They have outstanding leadership in the backcourt.”

The Terps’ own leadership had been largely absent in recent losses, but seniors Tucker (15 points), Bowie (13 points), and Dino Gregory (nine points) had strong performances in the second half, providing the complement to Williams’ inside presence to give Maryland its biggest victory of the season.

It was Bowie’s fourth straight game in double figures while Tucker has reached double digits in seven of his last eight games.

“They were great today, and they have to grab control,” said Gary Williams, who had all three seniors on the floor down the stretch with Stoglin and Howard mostly relegated to the bench. “I think that’s one of the themes with this year’s team: this is your team, this is your senior year. You’re remembered for what you do your senior year, there’s no doubt about it.”

The Terps will enjoy four days off before traveling to Virginia on Thursday night to take on Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers, who improved to 2-3 in the ACC with a win at Georgia Tech on Saturday. Just as they couldn’t dwell on the deflating loss against Virginia Tech, the Terps can’t celebrate Saturday’s win as they now take a two-game road trip to Virginia and Georgia Tech — two winnable games.

“We had a meeting [Friday] night and we are at a crossroads right now,” Tucker said. “Today was a good win. We didn’t want to think about last game, just today. The guys came out today and everybody played hard as a group. It wasn’t just one guy out there winning it for us. … Hopefully we can keep this going.”

NOTES: The Terps wore their white uniforms on Saturday, interrupting their recent tradition of wearing the gold uniforms at home against ACC opponents. … Stoglin scored 13 points, reaching double figures for the first time in five games. … Williams was just 4-for-9 from the free-throw line, but made both of his attempts in the final two minutes of the game. … Maryland posted just 10 turnovers, tied for its fourth best effort this season. … Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear post-game reaction from Gary Williams, Jordan Williams, and Cliff Tucker.

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Maryland embarrassed by Virginia Tech, 74-57

Posted on 21 January 2011 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — After a devastating second-half collapse against Villanova last Saturday, the Terps desperately needed to make a statement to build their confidence, their ACC stature, and their push for the NCAA tournament.

If an embarrassing 74-57 defeat to Virginia Tech is their best proclamation, the Terps need to take a long look at themselves after their largest margin of defeat in the nine-year history of the Comcast Center.

The Hokies (12-5, 3-2 ACC) sprinted out to a 12-0 lead as the Terps (11-7, 1-3 ACC) failed to score before the first media timeout, throwing up wild shots and making poor decisions as they didn’t know what hit them.

It didn’t get any better after that.

Virginia Tech guards Erick Green (24) and Malcolm Delaney (19) combined for 43 points to overwhelm the Terps’ backcourt. The Hokies shredded the Terps with 42 of their 74 points coming in the paint.

The Hokies’ zone defense collapsed the lane — holding Jordan Williams to just two points in the first half and 11 for the game — as Maryland’s guards failed to knock down perimeter shots.

Maryland’s starters combined for just eight points in the first half.

And aside from a two-minute, 11-point run by Cliff Tucker in the second half that got the Terps as close as eight points down with 7:15 to play, the score was never really an indication of how lopsided of an affair it truly was.

It was an absolute shellacking.

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“After a game like that, you wonder where that [effort] comes from compared to the efforts of last week,” coach Gary Williams said. “Playing three games in six days and the effort we made tonight was another thing.”

A common theme surrounding Maryland this season has been the need to play 40 minutes of good basketball after a number of close losses to good teams. Urgency had every reason to be present for the Terps, who were returning to their home floor after a three-game road trip with an opportunity to even their conference record against the Hokies and put last week’s competitive, but disappointing, losses to Duke and Villanova in the rear-view mirror.

Instead, Maryland turned in its most disappointing performance of the season.

Williams shuffled his starting backcourt again Thursday night, this time sending Tucker and freshman Pe’Shon Howard to the floor against the longer Hokies (Terrell Stoglin was benched for arriving late to a team meeting, according to the Maryland coach).

But just like every other backcourt combination sent to the floor this season, the situation continues to be lukewarm on even the best nights, with more teams figuring out Jordan Williams is the only Maryland player who can consistently hurt you. Williams is facing more and more zones collapsing the lane and denying him the basketball.

The sophomore forward had to fight to earn his 12th straight double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds) in the losing effort, matching Len Elmore’s school record set in 1973-74. However, as Gary Williams pointed out in his post-game comments, his pedestrian numbers begged for a teammate or two to emerge offensively, but the Terps received no such contribution short of Tucker’s brief second-half outburst and a modest 10-point performance by Bowie, who kept the team somewhat afloat in the first half.

“They played a packed-in zone, and they gave our guards a tough game,” said Williams, who recorded his 16th double-double of the season against the Hokies. “I found myself forcing some shots because I didn’t get that many touches, so when I did get the ball, I tried to be effective with it and I took some dumb shots.”

Luckily for the Terps, they won’t have long to think about this one as they turn around quickly to host the Clemson Tigers on Saturday afternoon, another beatable opponent on paper — just like the Hokies were supposed to be.

“I think it can be a good thing,” Tucker said. “We don’t have time to sit and mope around. We have to come in [to Friday’s practice] and forget about this and focus on Clemson. We have to have a sense of urgency about us.”

Urgency, indeed. The same urgency they should have had against the Hokies.

The Terps keep digging a hole for their postseason hopes deeper and deeper.

In a mediocre ACC, there’s still time to turn things around, but that climb grows more difficult with each game.

After Thursday night’s clunker against the Hokies, you have to wonder whether Maryland is really equipped to do it.

As close as many of us thought the Terps were to figuring it out in a gutsy performance 11 days ago at Cameron Indoor Stadium, they took several steps backward Thursday night.

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Maryland-Virginia Tech pre-game notes

Posted on 20 January 2011 by Luke Jones

***Join us in the Turtle Power live chat at 9:00 for tonight’s contest between Maryland and Virginia Tech.***

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — As Baltimore continues to lick its wounds from the Ravens’ disappointing exit from the postseason last weekend, the Terps take center stage after suffering their own Saturday collapse against Villanova in Philadelphia, surrendering a 12-point, second-half lead on their way to a 74-66 loss.

Needing a win to boost their spirits after a disappointing 1-2 road trip, the Terps (11-6, 1-2 ACC) return to College Park to host the Virginia Tech Hokies (11-5, 2-2) tonight at 9:00 in a nationally-televised game on ESPN2. Maryland’s six losses have come by a combined 35 points, but after coming up empty in the non-conference schedule in terms of impressive wins — and no, a meeting with Longwood on February 9 won’t help — the Terps need to begin stacking wins in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Hokies enter tonight’s game at 2-2 in the ACC with a 29-point win over lowly Wake Forest last Saturday. Virginia Tech is led by senior guard (and Baltimore native) Malcolm Delaney, who averages just under 19 points a game and had some not-so-flattering remarks about the Maryland students earlier in the week.

Despite Saturday’s collapse in Philadelphia, sophomore Jordan Williams earned his 11th straight double-double, scoring 25 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. The big man trails only Len Elmore (calling tonight’s action along with Mike Patrick on ESPN2), who has the school record of 12 consecutive set in the 1973-74 season.

Join us in the Turtle Power live chat beginning at 9:00 as Glenn Clark and I offer thoughts and analysis from Comcast Center. And if you’re not doing so already, follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates from College Park.

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