Thursday, February 19, 2004

Terps Fall to Georgia Tech 75-64

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Maryland fans, it is NOW time to worry. The Terrapins' streak of ten consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is in serious jeopardy after tonight's 75-64 loss to Georgia Tech at the Comcast Center.

Although Maryland (13-9, 4-7) turned in a solid defensive effort, they just could not put the ball in the basket. They made an astonishingly bad 32% of their field goal attempts and were 3-20 from three-point range. Georgia Tech's (19-6, 6-5) defensive quickness prevented much Terrapin penetration, and Luke Schenscher's height (7'1”) changed shots when Maryland players did get close to the hoop.

If there were any doubts that the Terps are not a very good shooting team in a half-court game, tonight's numbers should erase them. Jamar Smith missed 11 of his 12 attempts, which were either under duress inside or too far away from the hoop. Nik Caner-Medley made only five of his 16 shots, but none of his four three-pointers. When he tried to drive the lane, he was often harassed by a crowd of Yellow Jackets or had the ball knocked back is his face by Schenscher. John Gilchrist missed all but one of his seven attempts and all three threes. Chris McCray was 3-8 but missed all four of his threes. Mike Jones was 2-5 and only 1-4 from three-point range.
The only effective offensive performer for Maryland tonight was Travis Garrison, who came out on fire and scored seven of the Terps' first nine points. This helped the Terps jump out to an 11-4 lead and, after Tech pulled within 13-10, Maryland had a 9-2 run to go ahead 22-13. Garrison contributed two free throws and a follow of a D. J. Strawberry miss in that second burst, which forced Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt to call a time out.

During that time out, one of the shot clocks shut down. Coach Williams later joked, "It was a state budget cut.” After that point, for all intents and purposes, so did the Terrapins offense. Tech hit Maryland with a 16-2 run late in the first half to gain control of the game and take a 35-31 lead into the locker room at halftime.

At times in the first half, the Terps' offense resembled that of a hockey team, with their first shot being like dumping the puck into the offensive zone and success coming if someone could beat the opponent to it and get a good shot at the goal. Maryland shot only 35% in the half but stayed in the game by grabbing 13 offensive rebounds.

Ice was also the theme for the Terps' offense in the second half, as in ice cold. Bad shooting became worse after halftime, dropping to 29.7%. Maryland added 13 more offensive rebounds in the second half, but still only outscored the Yellow Jackets 18-11 in second chance points for the game. The Terps also finished the contest with only 2 fast break points, while Tech scored 14 off the break.

Adding to Maryland's offensive problems was Gilchrist's foul trouble. He picked up his fourth with 9:20 to play and the Terps trailing 55-48. He returned with 3;36 to play after Maryland had scored six unanswered points to draw back within 62-56, but fouled out only 34 seconds later on the play that drove the final nail in the coffin.

The Terps had cut the lead to 62-58 and the Jacket's Jarrett Jack missed a driving layup. Schenscher followed the shot, however, and drew the fifth foul on Gilchrist. Maryland did not quit, but they didn't start making shots either and Tech had no problem holding on for the win.

Garrison finished with 16 points, leading the Terps. McCray added 11. Smith was Maryland's leading rebounder with 11. Yellow Jacket point guard Jarrett Jack got the better of Gilchrist and led his team with 21 points. Will Bynum, who torched the Terps down in Atlanta, was held to 12 points, largely due to an outstanding defensive effort from Strawberry.

After the game, a clearly disappointed Gary Williams made it very simple, “We didn't shoot the ball with any consistency during the game. You have to put the ball in the basket at some point. I thought we had some good looks that we didn't make. It gets old.”

Not surprisingly, Williams was not ready to throw in the towel. “Patience has never been my strong point,” Williams said, “but I'm trying to get the best out of these guys this year.” He added, “We will play hard on Sunday in our next game. This thing is a long way from over. There are five games left and lots can happen.”

Whatever does happen in those five games, most of it needs to be good for the Terps to keep the NCAA streak alive.

Notes From Under the Shell
Maryland remains in seventh place in the ACC with a 4-7 record. Some experts think seven ACC teams will make the NCAA Tournament (that has never happened), but I don't see that happening if one of them has a 6-10 conference record. The Terps have to win three of their last five games to avoid that. With Clemson and Virginia coming to Comcast Center, they will have to win both of those games and beat either Wake Forest at home or Duke or NC State on the road. That will not happen unless they stop shooting like they are playing with one of those trick hoops at a carnival.

Someone who disagrees with that opinion is none other than John Feinstein. He told me after the game that if Maryland finishes 6-10 in the ACC, he thinks they make the NCAA because of their quality wins and the down years in the Pac-10 and Big 10 conferences reducing their at-large bids. Who are you going to listen to, the most successful sports author of this generation, or me? Don't feel obligated to answer that question.

This was the first time the Yellow Jackets have won in College Park since 1994, having lost in their last nine trips. This is also the first time they have swept Maryland in a season since 1993. The Terps now trail the all-time series with Georgia Tech 33-28 and have won five of the last nine meetings.

Amazingly, Maryland is now the only school in the ACC with a losing record in conference games at home. The Terps are now 2-3 at home in the conference, trailing even Virginia and Clemson, who are both 3-3 in ACC games at home.

As I looked around the press area tonight, I saw former Washington Bullet stars Mitch Kupchak (General Manager of the Los Angeles Lakers) and Kevin Grevey (broadcaster) sitting down the row from me. I turned to Grevey and said if we got a pickup game going and chose players by row, I liked our row's chances. When he laughed and asked who would pass the ball, I volunteered. I'm not above racking up assists with two ringers against a bunch of sportswriters.
Maryland travels to Duke for its next game on Sunday at 4 PM. The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC. It's a tough time for the Terps to show up at Cameron, with the Blue Devils coming off their first back-to-back losses this season.


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