- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

The wizard of one-liners was at it again after his Virginia team annihilated Maryland by 21 points on national television Wednesday night.

The 11th-ranked Cavaliers had just won consecutive games by more than 20 points by shredding the Terps' defense with 64.5 percent shooting in the second half. Their 99-78 win represented the most points scored by Virginia against Maryland.

"It's like 'Fantasy Island,' " said coach Pete Gillen, whose Cavaliers had been coming off a 104-76 romp at Clemson. "It's just something you never expect. It's like Jack Nicholson getting on the bus: You never know what is going to happen."

While Virginia is in a dream state, No. 9 Maryland is suffering through a waking nightmare. After squandering a 10-point lead against second-ranked Duke in the final minute of regulation before losing in overtime Saturday, the Terps showed little heart against the Cavaliers in their biggest loss of the season.

"Regardless of what happened at the start, we could have won this game but it wasn't really important enough to us," Terps center Mike Mardesich said. "If we had shown any desire to put forth any effort, I would be disappointed [in the loss]. [But] I am more disappointed in ourselves as a team. I am more disappointed in ourselves as people."

The split-personality Terps who for 39 minutes controlled the same Duke team that beat Virginia by 42 points couldn't match the Cavaliers' intensity. Maryland was emotionally drained by the Duke devastation.

Now Maryland coach Gary Williams will speak to players individually in an attempt to pull the team out of its funk. The good news is that the Terps (14-6, 5-3 ACC) play a weak Clemson team on Sunday at Cole Field House. The bad news is that they have a 1-5 record against ranked opponents, and mental toughness is an issue again after they rolled over for the Cavaliers.

"You look at how we were ready to play Duke and how we were ready to play [Virginia], and our team is two different teams," said Williams, who is concerned about the lack of defensive intensity. "We played great basketball on Saturday until the end of the game. We can get back there again. You have to be tough enough to get back there now after what happened at the end of that game and what happened [at Virginia]."

The Cavaliers (15-4, 4-4) were ready and energized, jumping to an 18-point first-half lead. The Terps pulled within 52-51 early in the second half and had a chance go ahead, but Terence Morris fumbled the ball out of bounds. Morris, one of the team's few bright spots with 15 rebounds, also missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game on Maryland's next possession.

Virginia got a second wind and the Terps went back into their malaise. Maryland managed just two field goals in its next 15 possessions by missing easy shots and turning over the ball. The Cavaliers went on a 29-6 run, featuring easy layups and three 3-point daggers by Keith Friel (17 points, 5-for-8 on 3-pointers). A turnover by Terps forward Danny Miller set up a 10-foot jumper by Chris Williams that gave the home team an 81-57 lead with 5:13 left.

"We just have to continue to run our offense and believe in it," said Maryland shooting guard Juan Dixon, who had been playing like an All-American before shooting 4-for-15 against the Cavaliers. "We got back in the game, and they made another run. They took it from there. We came out flat tonight. I came out flat tonight."

Another discouraging sign has been inconsistent play by two of the big three of Dixon, Morris and Lonny Baxter. Although Morris has been steady since ACC play began, Baxter has been saddled by foul troubles. And although he stayed out of that difficulty Wednesday, the bulky 6-foot-8 center was tentative, pulling down only two rebounds and scoring three of his 15 points after halftime.

The Terps are still searching for a leader. It appeared Dixon had taken that role as Maryland opened the ACC schedule with a 5-1 record, but the shooting guard failed to steady the squad in the loss to Duke and was a detriment against Virginia.

Maryland is bracing for a difficult second half of ACC play, with road games at No. 2 Duke, No. 4 North Carolina and No. 16 Wake Forest. The Terps have a chance to break out of their doldrums with two games in three days before visiting a competitive Georgia Tech squad on Tuesday.

"If we can't handle Saturday and come in and play hard [at Virginia], then that's where we are," Williams said. "We have to do something about it… . We'll find out now if we're a good team."

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