- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

Although No. 22 Maryland might never show any sort of consistency, even a fair showing in their final eight games should earn the Terrapins a 12th-straight NCAA tournament appearance.

At times, such as recent defeats of then-No. 2 Duke and then-No. 22 Georgia Tech, Maryland (13-6, 4-4 ACC) has appeared to be one of the nation’s top teams. Yet on other nights, such as Tuesday, when the Terps absorbed an embarrassing 88-73 loss at unranked Clemson, they have appeared vulnerable.

“We don’t get away with not playing up to our level,” said coach Gary Williams, whose team visits Miami (13-7, 4-5) today. “You might not play great every night, but you should play to your level. That’s what we have to do the last eight games. We can’t afford any [more] Clemson games. Can we do it for eight games? We don’t have a choice.”

The Terps are trying not to rely too heavily on forward Nik Caner-Medley (17.0 points) and guard John Gilchrist (14.4) for scoring. They don’t want to depend on pressure defense or rallies when the frontcourt is manhandled.

“We’re still trying to find our identity,” forward Mike Grinnon said. “You never know who’s going to step up.”

Sometimes nobody does. In recent losses, the Terps have been caught waiting for Caner-Medley or Gilchrist to provide an offensive spark. Their offense often doesn’t seem to mesh until the second half, when large deficits have proved insurmountable.

“We have our ups and downs,” forward Travis Garrison said. “We do things to put ourselves in a hole, but we’re a good team. I don’t think we gave it our all down at Clemson. We didn’t play as hard as we could.”

Maryland must do so today against surprisingly tough Miami. The Hurricanes have beaten Clemson, N.C. State, Virginia and Florida State in their first season in the ACC, already surpassing preseason predictions of a last-place finish. The Terps probably will play more three-guard combinations to counter a blazing backcourt led by guard Guillermo Diaz (18.4 points).

“Everybody was saying they couldn’t play in the ACC,” Williams said. “That’s a pretty good way to motivate their players.”

Said Miami coach Frank Haith: “I didn’t really have any expectations. I felt like this team had potential, and we just kept getting better. All of a sudden, we gained confidence.”

A victory could bolster Maryland before a two-game homestand against Virginia Tech (Tuesday) and Duke (Feb. 12).

“Let’s go play the last eight games,” Williams said. “Nobody is making any decision on who’s doing what at the end of the year right now. That’s up to the games to decide. … People can have opinions, but it gets done on the court.”

The Terps overcame a 3-5 conference start last season to win the ACC tournament, and Garrison said defending the crown is possible.

“We’re not worried about the [NCAA] bubble thing,” he said. “If we play like we can, we’ll be fine. Teams are beating each other, and the standings are going to change every week.”

Notes — Forward Darien Henry will return after missing six weeks following knee surgery. Guard D.J. Strawberry will undergo surgery on a torn knee ligament Friday. He is out for the season. … Guard Chris McCray, Caner-Medley (flu) and center Will Bowers (cold) were sick against Clemson.

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