Terps take up residence on the NCAA bubble

Terps take up residence on the NCAA bubble
February 5, 2011, 4:17 am
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February 4, 2011, 5:31 p.m.


By Patrick Stevens

Almost exactly a month remains in Marylands regular season.

The Terrapins only hope theres enough time to salvage its NCAA basketball tournament hopes.

After Wednesdays 80-62 loss to Duke --- a setback that prolonged Marylands seemingly never-ending search for a victory it can be certain will possess value deep into the season --- the Terps (14-8, 4-4 ACC) find themselves mired in Bubbleville and trying to sort out just why theyve established records for largest margin of defeat at Comcast Center twice in a two-week span.

Such a fate is unlikely to repeat itself Saturday when struggling Wake Forest (8-14, 1-6) visits College Park. Nor does a Wednesday encounter with independent Longwood (8-17) appear particularly threatening.

Nonetheless, the Terps are still seeking some form of consistency beyond the steady interior play of sophomore Jordan Williams. Their profile remains remarkably bland, littered with victories over teams ranked outside the top 75 in the RPI. There is no questionable loss, but a 1-8 mark against the top 75 remains an eyesore.

Theres not much to be done about it in a single game, though, and dwelling on Wednesdays struggles is not something coach Gary Williams plans to do.

This is not the time of the year where you look back at games, Williams said. You see things you dont like and you prepare for the next game because thats the most important game. I cant do anything about the Duke game, but I can really get prepared for the Wake Forest game because thats whats important.

There are things he would no doubt like to find answers for, and soon. The Terps havent cracked 70 points in five of their last eight games, a function on some occasions of opponent but on others a reflection of a simple inability to make shots.

There is also the continuing issue of seeking a steady secondary scorer, something that may never happen for this particular bunch. Williams might be a walking double-double, but no one else has reached double figures in even two-thirds of Marylands games (though Cliff Tucker, with 14 such games, is close).

The immediate impact of Wednesdays setback was Gary Williams noting despite constant work to prepare a team, at some point it is the responsibility of players to perform well. None of the Terps disagreed with the assessment.

"He coaches his heart out, and he's a great coach," Jordan Williams said. "It's just a matter of he can't come out and hit shots for us or call out screens. If he could, he would. He told us if he could suit up, he would play. It's just a matter of us getting out there and being a team and talking and moving and just being smart."

And moving on from a disappointing defeat, much like Duke did in response to a weekend setback at St. Johns. A defeat of Wake Forest wont solve Marylands resume deficiencies, but simply moving past Wednesdays loss will be important for the Terps if they are to reach the NCAA tournament for the third straight season.

I think were going into the Wake game and well see if we can do the same thing, get really ready to play after a tough loss, Williams said. I saw us being five points and having two good looks being points down in the middle of the second half. Nothings changed in the way I feel.