- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2003

The Maryland Terrapins sat in their locker room late last night with long faces, bleary eyes and sober looks. They had just turned in a shoddy effort, struggled running their offense, couldn’t shoot and were generally out of sync all night.

It was hard to tell that they had just registered an 87-72 victory over Hofstra.

The Terps improved to 3-0 before a lifeless crowd with plenty of empty seats at Comcast Center. Maryland got by an overmatched opponent but couldn’t feel good about the kind of performance that would be costly against better competition.

“When you don’t play up to your potential, sometimes it feels like a loss,” Maryland point guard John Gilchrist said. “We’re making a lot of mental mistakes. It is free throws. It is intensity. It is everything.”

The Terps shot a pitiful 31 of 55 (56.4 percent) from the foul line. They also made only 43.3 percent from the floor and missed countless close-range shots. Nik Caner-Medley led Maryland with 19 points, while Jamar Smith notched his third double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds while making only three of 11 shots.

It was a common theme.

“We are just playing soft sometimes,” said Smith, the team’s only senior. “We have to be ready.”

Hofstra’s strategy was to pack in a zone and dare Maryland to shoot. It worked. Hofstra (1-3) also was the aggressor, committing 37 fouls. The Pride was more physical and even outrebounded the bigger Terps 44-36.

“One of the big stats is still rebounding,” said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who felt his team’s halfcourt defense was lacking. “The fact that we didn’t shoot well from the foul line or the field tonight and we missed a lot of easy shots — that’s frustrating.”

Maryland’s defensive pressure made the ultimate difference by creating 25 turnovers, including 14 steals, and leading to easy scores. Gilchrist scored 18 points and made five steals, and freshman D.J. Strawberry provided a defensive spark off the bench with three steals.

The performance was not what the Terps were looking for as they completed a sweep of three mid-major programs to start the season. Now Maryland faces a telling stretch against three ranked opponents in an eight-day period. No.15 Wisconsin visits Comcast on Tuesday. Maryland also will meet 16th-ranked Gonzaga and visit No.8 Florida.

“We have been going through some lapses,” said Caner-Medley, a rare offensive bright spot who made seven of 13 shots and two of three 3-pointers. “We need people to step up, and now is the time. If we don’t play well, we’re not going to beat those teams.”

The Pride, who broke out to an 11-2 lead to start the game, cut a 21-point second-half deficit down to 71-61 on a 3-pointer by Danny Walker (team-high 19 points) with 6:58 left. The Pride had a chance to close within single digits, but Carlos Rivera was called for an offensive foul with 3:43 remaining.

Caner-Medley’s fallaway jumper from the baseline made it 79-66, and Smith ended a break with a layup to regain a 15-point advantage for the Terps with 2:43 left.

“We know we can’t play like this any more the rest of the season,” said Strawberry, who is likely to see more playing time. “We have to play with intensity and play with pride.”

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