- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

The early season probably won't have much effect on Maryland's overall basketball season. But you wouldn't have known it from the bleary eyes and somber looks in the locker room after Tuesday night's 80-74 overtime loss to Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

The ninth-ranked Terps got a gauge of where they are as a team in their loss to the No.10 Hoosiers. And the results from the national championship rematch in Indianapolis were clearly mixed.

"We did some pretty good things," said guard Drew Nicholas, who had a difficult shooting night. "I thought our defense for the most part was all right. We just have to get better."

Maryland center Ryan Randle and point guard Steve Blake sparkled but couldn't carry the team. Instead, the Hoosiers' Tom Coverdale took over the game. The gritty and heady point guard matched a career-high with 30 points, along with five assists and four steals.

Coverdale led a deliberate offense that often resulted in layups off back screens, and Indiana committed only four turnovers. In contrast, Maryland gave the ball away 16 times, including several that changed the game's momentum.

"If we handle the ball better at the end, we win the game," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We have got to execute better and run the offense better down the stretch.

The Terrapins (3-1) took yesterday off from practice and begin preparing today for Saturday's game against Notre Dame in the first round of the BB&T Classic at MCI Center. Maryland could face second-ranked Texas in the second round and plays host to No.7 Florida in its next game.

Maryland hopes to learn quickly from its Indy road test. The Hoosiers used their late poise and Coverdale to make up for their 30 percent shooting. The Terps had a seven-rebound advantage but couldn't make up for sloppy ballhandling. Maryland struggled without power forward Tahj Holden, who provided only six points before fouling out with more than 13 minutes to play.

The Terps had several promising signs, including the play of Randle, Blake and freshman forward Travis Garrison (eight points, five rebounds), who was unfazed by the hostile surroundings as he mainly filled in for Holden.

Blake scored a career-high 22 points, including several critical shots late in the second half. He nearly ended the game by swishing a halfcourt shot at the end of regulation, but after watching television replays, officials ruled it was launched just after the buzzer.

Randle was the game's dominant inside player, posting career highs with 20 points and 16 rebounds and adding five blocks in 39 minutes.

"I told Coach, 'Don't take me out for anything,'" said Randle, who averaged fewer than 10 minutes a game last season. "They just started getting their shots off, and we weren't [defending] on the screens."

The 6-foot-9 Randle showed excellent footwork around the basket that suggests he is ready to pick up Lonny Baxter's role from last season.

Maryland matched the intensity of the more physical Hoosiers and wasn't rattled by a boisterous crowd. But Blake and Randle didn't get much support. Holden played only 16 minutes, and Nicholas connected on just three of 11 field goal attempts.

"It's up to Steve and me," said Nicholas, referring to the senior backcourt. "We are supposed to lead this team. We didn't come up with the plays at the end."

Small forward Calvin McCall had an inconsistent night, finishing with seven rebounds. He also had six turnovers, including several lackluster perimeter passes that immediately resulted in fastbreaks for Indiana.

Maryland is in the early stages of developing depth and doesn't have a proven rotation of eight players like last season that can sustain the Terps if a starter is struggling or in foul trouble. Garrison played well but couldn't match the Hoosiers' inside experience and was picked on defensively as Indiana set screens to get its inside players easy shots.

The most encouraging sign for the three freshmen who played is that they showed no jitters despite a hostile crowd and national television audience. Besides Garrison, freshmen John Gilchrist and Nik Caner-Medley saw considerable time, and played well enough to give starters needed rest.

The newcomers also got a taste of life on the road as Maryland was whistled for twice as many fouls (26-13) and the Hoosiers shot almost three times as many free throws (39-14). Last year the Terps overcame adversity with now-NBA players Baxter and Juan Dixon leading the way. Maryland is looking for other players to fill that role this season.

The Terps left Conseco Fieldhouse with their heads down and emotionally drained from the defeat.

"We just didn't put it together in the end," Nicholas said. "It's tough, but we have to get through it."

Williams was encouraged by his team's toughness and took some solace in knowing this was merely a December loss, meaning inconsequential in the long run,

"It's not the national championship," he said. "We went into a tough place and lost at the end to a top team. We'll get better because of the experience."

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