- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

Maryland forward Tahj Holden isn't concerned with whom the No.14 Terrapins draw when NCAA tournament selections are announced tonight. Either the frontcourt starts producing or the Terps will exit quickly no matter the opponent.
"If we play like this, there's no chance of us winning," Holden said. "Luckily, we have one more shot."
Maryland (19-9) appears headed to Spokane, Wash., or Salt Lake City as a fifth or sixth seed in the West Regional on Thursday after losing its second straight. Friday night's 81-72 quarterfinal loss to North Carolina was the Terps' earliest ACC tournament defeat in nine years and certainly will factor into the NCAA selection committee's seeding.
The expected NCAA bid may have contributed to Maryland's recent slide. With relatively little to gain, the Terps played without emotion against Virginia in the regular-season finale and North Carolina.
Players conceded looking past the ACC tournament because winning it wouldn't have made a dramatic impact on the Terps' NCAA seeding. However, the loss to North Carolina will make it much more difficult for the defending national champions to gain a third straight Final Four because of their likely mid-level seed.
"Maybe it would be different if we didn't have that [NCAA berth] wrapped up," coach Gary Williams said of the poor effort against North Carolina. "Maybe the NCAA tournament has become so big [that] maybe it's not all good that it is that big."
Guard Drew Nicholas questioned the intensity of some teammates in the second half Friday after Maryland went to the locker room with a 40-36 lead. The Terps often seemed a step behind and committed needless fouls that constantly plagued them.
"We didn't show enough emotion, enough passion to play in this kind of atmosphere," Nicholas said. "We weren't really prepared, and it showed up. … If you come out with the wrong mindset [in the NCAAs], it's over and you have to wait [six] months to play basketball again."
Maryland rebounded from a disappointing ACC semifinal loss last year to win the national crown, but guard Steve Blake saw little similarities between the two seasons.
"I'm not thinking about last year," he said. "I'm trying to think about this year's team and trying to fix it."
However, Nicholas tried to display a champion's bravado. He'll act like the favorite until Maryland is eliminated.
"We're the defending national champions in our minds it's still ours," he said. "It's a new year and a new team, but somebody still has to take that away from us."
Maryland's beleaguered frontcourt was responsible for Friday's loss as smaller North Carolina outrebounded the Terps 40-30. Maryland center Ryan Randle scored one point with two rebounds in 13 minutes after drawing three early fouls, and forward Tahj Holden fouled out with six points.
"We didn't do a good job getting them the basketball," Williams said. "It just seems like we're not scoring now. We're not moving real quick in there."
Forward Nik Caner-Medley managed nine points with five rebounds despite having four fouls, and Calvin McCall added six points and six steals. However, the small forwards aren't the difference-makers underneath.
Conversely, Maryland's backcourt is producing on both ends. Nicholas led the Terps with 18 points while Blake scored 12 with 10 assists and freshman John Gilchrist added 10 points. However, Maryland couldn't run effectively without strong rebounding creating the kind of fastbreak opportunities the Terps relish.
Williams even tried several unusual lineups, including one with four reserves, trying to jump-start the offense. The Terps have often used a three-guard lineup with Blake moving to shooting guard, Nicholas to small forward and Gilchrist at point for more outside scoring chances when they are having little success underneath.
Now Maryland faces a short week and probably a long trip. Either the five seniors that opponents have long lauded because of their tournament experience deliver or Maryland begins to rebuild for next season.
"They've got to lead us," Williams said. "You want your experience to take over from here on out."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide