The Washington Times - January 30, 2009, 06:44PM

Arrived at Comcast Center early today – early enough to see Eric Hayes hauling three basketballs out to do plenty of extra shooting more than an hour before practice started.

The thing about the stoic Hayes is you never can really tell when something is wrong. He probably would have done the same thing with the same placid expression if he was playing well.

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But, as of late, he is not. Over the last seven games, he’s averaging 7.1 points while shooting 29.5 percent. Since he’s a shooting guard, well, that isn’t very good.

For a team that’s cracked the 70-point plateau once in regulation in six league games, that has to be a source of worry for most people. And Maryland coachGary Williams certainly falls into that category.

“I’m concerned, but I’m really rooting for Eric because he’s played a lot of good basketball here and is going to play a lot in the future,” Williams said. “It’s just getting through this period. It’s a shame because the last game against Boston College, I saw three – you coach a long time, you look at it from the bench and you see a guy shoot the ball and it looks like it’s going in. They just rattled, three 3s I think they were. They were all good shots, and they were all taken out of the offense. He was in good rhythm when he took them. They didn’t go in.”

At some stage, though, they probably have to go in. And for the Terps, that time probably needs to be soon.

Maybe even tomorrow night’s game against Miami.

“I think it’s one of those cases where if you can make a couple in a row, I think he’ll be fine,” Williams said. “You look at the video and things like that, there’s nothing wrong with his stroke. It’s just that the ball’s got to go in, and hopefully that will happen tomorrow night.”

Williams said he’s met with Hayes several times to talk things over and has offered support. But words of encouragement can only do so much good, since it is Hayes who has made only 18 of 61 shots since Jan. 6.

“Easy for me, I’m not the guy shooting the ball,” Williams said. “Coaches always have the right things to tell players to get out of a slump. The only thing is, the coach isn’t in a slump. it’s the player. The mental part of that is really tough on anybody in any sport. A batter goes into a slump, he gets a fastball down the middle and he fouls it off and he’s been putting that pitch out of the park the whole life. It just happens. Eric’s been a great scorer his whole life. In high school, he scored a ton of points. Hopefully, he can get it back.”

Patrick Stevens