- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 8, 2004

The Maryland Terrapins plan to start right the second time around.

The Terps opened their ACC schedule with a loss at Florida State that set the tone for a 3-5 first-half record. Today Maryland opens the second half with the Seminoles visiting Comcast Center.

Maryland is on the dreaded NCAA tournament bubble, and the final eight games will determine whether the Terps make an 11th consecutive trip to the tournament.

“We have to go into games with a sense of urgency,” forward Travis Garrison said. “We have to go into every game like ‘if we don’t win this game, it might keep us out of the NCAA tournament.’”

Maryland’s inexperience and offensive shortcomings were well documented during a stretch of four losses in five games before Wednesday’s victory at Virginia. The second half of the ACC season looks more promising, if only because five of the eight games will be in College Park.

“We have hung in there,” said Terps coach Gary Williams, whose string of seven consecutive 20-win seasons also is in jeopardy. “And now it comes down, starting with Florida State. If we are going to be successful, you have to win at home. What are we — 1-2 at home [in the conference]? We’ll see.”

Maryland (12-7 overall), which lost to top-ranked Duke and N.C. State at home, is seventh in the conference, one game behind Florida State and Georgia Tech for third place and one game ahead of eighth-place Clemson. Six or seven of the nine teams could make the NCAA tournament, one or more might even get in with a losing league record.

Florida State (16-6, 4-4) is pursuing its own NCAA quest under second-year coach Leonard Hamilton. The former Washington Wizards coach registered upsets over three currently ranked teams: Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and North Carolina. The Seminoles have won four of their last five and have the league’s hottest player in Tim Pickett, who is coming off a career-high 33 points — 25 in the second half — in a 81-65 pasting of the 15th-ranked Yellow Jackets.

Pickett is averaging 24.2 points while shooting 52 percent from the field and 47.7 percent on 3-pointers the last five games. The 6-foot-4 senior guard, who had 30 points in an overtime win over No.17 North Carolina, made six of 10 3-pointers against the Yellow Jackets.

“He’s a tremendous scorer,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “The shots that he made, if you haven’t seen him before, you would say that he had a lucky night. But if you have seen him before, you know that he is capable of making those shots.”

However, Pickett’s team is 0-3 in ACC road games, with five of its remaining eight league games away from Tallahassee.

Meanwhile, the Terps feel many of their questions will be answered if they can simply shoot straight. Maryland’s percentages are just 31.4 percent on 3-pointers in league play and 64.4 percent from the foul line.

The Terps come in with some momentum today despite sinking just 18 of 36 free throws against Virginia. Maryland overcame that by outrebounding the Cavaliers 49-38 and getting 26 points from point guard John Gilchrist.

“We played as hard as any team in the country that night,” said Williams, who feels his team is deeper than when the teams last met because freshmen Hassan Fofana and Mike Jones are now contributing. “That’s what it is all about. You learn that if you play hard you can make up for certain things [like poor] shooting. … Get second shots, play good defense. Maybe that evens it out against a good shooting team.”

Maryland opens its final round of conference play, the Terps are well aware their postseason destiny is murky.

“We have been [to the NCAA tournament] the last 10 years,” Jones said. “Now that I am here, I am feeling a little pressure on myself to contribute and do as much as possible to make it 11 years.”

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