- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The score - not to mention most of the statistical lines, from the solid assist and blocks totals to the minimal bench scoring - of Maryland’s 72-59 defeat of Florida Atlantic on Sunday will quickly be packed away for posterity and barely thought about.

The rebounding totals are another matter.

The Terrapins (8-3), who host William & Mary (8-2) on Wednesday at Comcast Center, remain shaky on the glass after yielding 49 rebounds (23 offensive) in their latest outing.

“It’s pretty obvious that’s a problem right now,” coach Gary Williams said.

Fixing it is another matter.

Maryland ranks last in the ACC in rebounding margin, the only team in the league to get beaten on the boards for the season. The Terps’ rebounding output (38.2) isn’t so much the problem as their opponents’ effectiveness (38.7). No other conference team is allowing more than 35.1 boards.

“That’s kind of upsetting,” forward Landon Milbourne said. “We’ve been focusing on that for a while. It just hasn’t clicked yet. It’s real bad when you’re playing a team that’s out of conference and someone comes out and gets that many rebounds on you. Sometimes you just have to take that upon yourself and stop guys from getting rebounds. Even if you can’t get it, just don’t let your man get it.”

It simply didn’t happen Sunday. Instead, the Owls found themselves in many favorable situations to collect caroms to help them stay closer to the Terps than they otherwise would have.

Oddly, this wasn’t supposed to be nearly as glaring an issue as last year, when the Terps had Milbourne and Dave Neal in the frontcourt and went into games knowing a split on the glass would constitute a good night. The addition of Jordan Williams and James Padgett to the frontcourt rotation figured to elevate the standard for success.

Williams is averaging a team-high 8.0 rebounds, Padgett is providing a solid 4.3 off the bench and sophomore Sean Mosley (who is expected to return Wednesday from a slightly sprained left ankle after a one-game hiatus) has bolstered his work on the boards. But the rebounding averages for Milbourne and fellow starters Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes have dropped slightly.

“I think that’s one of those things where everybody thinks, ‘Well, they’ll be a better rebounding team. You got Padgett, you got Jordan - you’ll be fine,’ ” Gary Williams said. “It doesn’t work that way. You have to earn it every time.”

It will require a turnaround, especially with conference play arriving Jan. 10 and the likes of Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu, Clemson’s Trevor Booker and Miami’s Dwayne Collins set to face the Terps next month.

“It’s just a matter of us doing it, a matter of us going after the ball and making up our mind that we’re going to try and go get every rebound,” Milbourne said. “I don’t think we’re thinking that way right now. I think we’re just trying to see where the ball is going, trying to see how hard we can play, seeing how hard we can go in there. You really can’t judge that. Sometimes you just have to go.”

It’s an attitude Williams hopes can permeate through the team. He emphatically pointed to rebounding and 3-point defense as the Terps’ greatest flaws after Sunday’s comfortable win.

Florida Atlantic won’t fully exploit those shortcomings. Williams knows conference opponents will.

“We have to do something. I think that’s critical to our success this year, to become a better rebounding team,” he said. “I know we don’t go for the ball as well as we should, given that we play pretty good defense. They’re connected. There’s no reason to play that type of defense and then give up second shots. It just doesn’t make any sense.

“We’ll address it. Hopefully we can fix it.”

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