- The Washington Times - Friday, December 20, 2002

The biggest challenges facing Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams may be to calm fans and intensify seniors.
"There's no major problems with my team. We're trying to get good enough to beat top-10 teams," Williams said yesterday. "We've proven we can beat mid-level Division I teams. Now we want to step up and beat the top 15, 20 teams."
With the Terrapins on a nine-day break during finals before returning Monday against Maryland-Baltimore County, Williams downplayed the 4-3 start that surprised some fans following last year's national championship. But Williams described No.24 Maryland's losses to three ranked teams as more beneficial than runaway victories.
"You can schedule yourself 6-1 or 7-0 if you want to," Williams said. "I could get seven Division I games and we could be 7-0 right now, but in the long run, for the young guys especially, this is the best thing because you see what level you have to play at. We're a good team. It's amazing people think we're not a good team. We're just trying to smooth out some things."
Like working the ball underneath better, using a three-guard lineup and distributing minutes among reserves. Williams also is working on seniors who are experiencing a post-championship syndrome of sorts.
Guards Drew Nicholas and Steve Blake and forward Tahj Holden have had shaky starts. Nicholas is hitting 39 percent of his 3-pointers, while Blake has sometimes sacrificed scoring to work the offense. Holden has not matched the presence underneath of center Ryan Randle (12.6 points, 7.6 rebounds).
The four senior starters have different roles this season, often being asked to contribute more at critical moments. However, Blake conceded after a recent loss that the Terps lack the comeback mentality that was a mainstay last season. Williams doesn't want to create artificial intensity, but he needs his low-key seniors to do a better job of leading.
"Our personalities this year are laid back," Williams said. "You can't say you have to be emotional. You have to be yourself. We have to figure out how to play with a great deal of intensity, without being a rah-rah type of team. "[The national championship] is the ultimate thing you can do as a college player. Emotionally, they've done that.
"Last year we were really hungry to win a national championship. We knew we were good enough. Now, senior year, you have to make it your most important year for yourself. This is what you've played four years to get to. They understand. It's been tough on them emotionally to get into this year. You make the players understand they're really pretty good. We know we can be a good team."

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