The Washington Times - December 31, 2009, 11:13AM

Everyone would be wise to pick up a copy of tomorrow’s dead-tree edition. Our crack editing staff has come up with a fine retrospective on covering 27 years of D.C.-area sports.

But there will also be a few stories from the present day, including this article just filed a few minutes ago looking back on Maryland’s 83-77 loss to William & Mary – and ahead to what lies ahead in the 2010 portion of the 2009-10 season.

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Maryland faced an unpleasant truth Wednesday when William & Mary rolled into Comcast Center, completely outplayed the Terrapins and left with an 83-77 victory.

Now it’s a matter of figuring out how to avoid it, especially as thoughts of postseason implications start seeping into nearly every game going forward.

Bad shooting, poor decisions, matador defense and a complete lack of patience exacerbated by the Tribe’s crafty play all sunk Maryland (8-4) into some much-needed self-reflection as it heads into the new year.

“That’s the toughest thing after a loss,” coach Gary Williams said. “You should have self doubts after a loss. Players, coaches. I think that’s the way a team gets better after a loss like this. It’s what you do from here that’s really important. You can’t do anything about this game, but we can do something about the next time we play, and that has to be where our heads are.”

It’s safe to say the Terps’ minds weren’t anywhere near where they needed to be against the Tribe (9-2), a dangerous outfit that already owned victories over Wake Forest, Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth.

Not that it mattered to Maryland, who were reminded yet again of the dangers of shrugging off capable nonconference visitors. Ohio and American imparted the lesson two years ago, Morgan State last season. Yet it still remained on the syllabus thanks to the Tribe’s smart play and the Terps’ apparent apathy and lack of emotion.

“That’s just something we have to build within our team,” forward Landon Milbourne said. “We haven’t done a good job of that so far. I think tonight it finally caught up with us. We know that now, and we just have to find a way to get ourselves fired up for games.”

The lingering problem won’t be who the Terps lost to, but just how the setback unfolded. There’s also the matter of postseason considerations, since Maryland’s nonconference resume is sure to provide little assistance once the NCAA tournament selection committee gets around to scrutinizing it.

Sure, the Terps were fairly competitive in their four losses, all to credible teams. But Maryland’s best nonconference victory? Maybe it’s Fairfield (9-3). For name recognition, it’s Indiana (6-6), which just lost top scorer Maurice Creek to a fractured left knee.

The Terps’ remaining nonconference games are Sunday at UNC Greensboro (2-9) and Jan. 19 against Longwood (3-11). Nope, not a lot of RPI help there. So it will be left to Maryland to solve its problems against conference opponents.

“We have enough guys and enough time to win games if we’re disciplined,” guard Greivis Vasquez said. “We can’t beat teams by playing one-on-one. We have to run our offense and we have to take the ball to the basket. We settled too much for jump shots. You can’t do that.”

The on-court regression only amplified weaknesses the Terps already had exposed at times this season. Maryland is still striving to become an average rebounding bunch. It struggles to defend the perimeter, as was the case in the first half Wednesday. Its bench struggles to generate any offense.

Williams, though, will preach patience. After all, it worked last season when the Terps ventured into league play coming off a loss to Morgan State.

“You tell your team this is the 12th game of the year,” Williams said. “Most years, you play 34, 35 games, so everything’s ahead of us. We’re going to work hard to be a better team the next time we play.”

Wednesday no doubt provided an impetus for self-improvement. After all, a new year is upon the Terps and there is much work to do if they are to secure the NCAA tournament berth so many projected for them in the preseason.

They’re not out of time. But the opportunities for a turnaround could quickly dwindle – a fact Maryland is fully aware of with conference play less than two weeks away.

“I’m just upset because we’re such a good team,” Milbourne said. “When we play to our strengths and we do what we’re supposed to do, we’re a really tough team to beat. We haven’t even given ourselves a chance to do that yet. I feel like we’re going to, but it just hasn’t happened yet. We just have to figure out how to do it. Quick. These next games are going to be a test for us to see where we’re at.”

– Patrick Stevens