- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2004

It was the kind of game the Maryland Terrapins would love to forget. But they won’t really be able to do that for almost two weeks.

The Terps are re-evaluating themselves following their disappointing ACC-opening loss at Florida State on Sunday. Maryland, which has posted wins over ranked teams Wisconsin and Florida, dropped out of the national polls after a particularly shoddy performance against the supposedly inferior Seminoles.

“A lot of players on our team believed before the Florida State game that you could get by just on talent,” said point guard John Gilchrist, one of several players who thought the Terps’ poor practice habits caught up with them. “I think we might have underestimated Florida State.”

Maryland, which committed 24 turnovers and continued its free throw shooting troubles in the loss, won’t play its second conference contest until ninth-ranked North Carolina visits Comcast Center on Jan.14.

In the meantime, the Terps (7-3) will attempt to straighten out their season against a pair of overmatched foes in College Park: Mount St. Mary’s (2-8) today and Maryland-Eastern Shore (0-5) on Tuesday.

“You’re not going to make every shot and things like that, but you can’t turn it over 24 times,” said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who thought Florida State effectively won the game by jumping out to an 18-4 lead. “You can’t go through periods of the game where you don’t score for five minutes. You have to be consistent. You have to find a way to score. We have to shoot better free throws.”

Jamar Smith has missed all 10 of his free throw attempts over the last three games, but his 39.6 percent from the line is just the most egregious on a team shooting blanks. The Terps are shooting 55.7 percent and made 10 of 18 in the four-point loss in Tallahassee.

To correct matters, Smith is taking extra foul shots before and after practice. And on off-days, the team’s lone senior takes 300 free throws, of which he said he is sinking 75 percent. During practices this week, players felt more intensity than during the lackluster days leading up to Florida State.

“Practice is getting a little bit more gritty,” Gilchrist said. “People are going for loose balls. … Some nights you just have to grind wins out. Some nights the shots aren’t going to be falling and stuff like that, but if you can play tough defense — sometimes the games are just ugly. That’s what I learned last year after coming in thinking it was all about skill. It’s something that comes along with maturity.”

Mount St. Mary’s is also trying to grow up quickly with a new coach for the first time in half a century. Jim Phelan retired last season after 49 years and 829 wins. Former assistant Milan Brown is trying to rebuild the program with a squad that starts three sophomores, a freshman and one senior.

“We hope playing Maryland helps us prepare for the [Northeast Conference] as far as playing on the road,” said Brown, whose team is coming off a 54-53 win at Navy on a buzzer-beater by sophomore Landy Thompson. “We are young and in a rebuilding stage. We hit a snag the last three or four years and have to claw back.”

An intriguing subplot this afternoon has Gilchrist going against his cousin and former high school teammate Antonio Johnson. Gilchrist and Johnson, a 6-foot-1 guard and sixth man for Mount St. Mary’s, won a Virginia state championship together at Salem High School.

“We’re tight,” Gilchrist said. “I talk to him on the phone every day.”

Johnson has been looking forward to taking on his more-famous relative.

“He’s been talking about it for a while,” Brown said. “I’m sure he’ll get a little piece of [covering] him.”

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