- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | Five points, two losses, no panic.

A two-game trip to the ACC’s southernmost outposts ended much as it began Saturday, with Maryland taking a close loss in a game it could easily have captured. And on the surface, the Terrapins have lost three of four to counteract much of their early season resume.

Yet for a team already saddled with second-division expectations, there were odd beams of hope emanating from a 76-73 overtime loss to Florida State at Donald L. Tucker Center, a setback without nearly the disastrous overtones as the one suffered three days earlier.

Rather than blow a 17-point lead as they did in a 62-60 loss at Miami, Maryland (12-5, 1-2 ACC) erased an 11-point deficit to force overtime. It took a 3-pointer from Toney Douglas and a series of free throws in the closing minute to fell the Terps, who lingered until the end despite teetering on the precipice of a blowout much earlier.

“We came into two tough places to play, and we should have won both games there,” guard Eric Hayes said. “We had chances to win, and we just didn’t do it. We definitely showed we can play with anybody on the road. When we get down, we’re never out of the game.”

It is an odd trait, an ability to turn a certain outcome into the opposite result, yet the Terps are perfecting it. In Maryland’s last four games, a team has turned a double-digit deficit into a victory. If it weren’t for Douglas’ 25 points for the Seminoles (15-3, 2-1), the streak probably would sit at five.

Undersized power forward Landon Milbourne produced 17 points and nine rebounds against an imposing Florida State front line. His putback with 22.4 seconds remaining forced overtime and ensured the Seminoles wouldn’t make a premature escape despite leading 52-41 in the middle of the second half.

“I didn’t want to leave Florida with two losses, plain and simple,” Milbourne said. “I felt like we could have played a whole lot harder the last 10 minutes of the Miami game, and I didn’t want that to happen tonight. I just tried to play as hard as I can for as long as I can. I got kind of tired at the end, and I didn’t let it show.”

Neither did the other players glued to the floor for almost the entirety of the final stretch. And while Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton received what he wanted - a muted Hayes (nine points) and Greivis Vasquez (six points), as well as the Seminoles’ best start since opening the 1988-89 season 16-1 - others allowed the Terps to stick around.

Adrian Bowie was again effective, scoring 14 points before fouling out with 4:04 left in regulation. Sean Mosley delivered 13 points off the bench, many of them in transition. And the Terps, who functioned well in the halfcourt and flustered the Seminoles by falling into a zone, produced a respectable showing despite the outcome.

“We still want to prove what we can do on the court,” coach Gary Williams said. “We have a long way to go with 13 games left. Two road games are out of the way against two teams that have two tough places to play for us, and we could have won both of them, but we didn’t get them.”

Clearly, it was a far from flawless day, and there’s little question Maryland can ill afford to squander any more of these opportunities. But perhaps there is something moderately welcome in knowing just some improved shooting could have led to a far more fulfilling trip.

Indeed, the Terps were a whistle away from a tie late in overtime. With Maryland down 74-72, Milbourne muscled toward the basket after taking a pass from Vasquez and was tied up. The play was initially called a travel and might have been a foul. Instead, it was a jump ball, and the Seminoles took possession with 6.2 seconds left.

“I can’t really go against the ref, but at the same time I thought it was a foul,” Milbourne said. “I couldn’t get the ball up because he was grabbing my arm, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. You can’t blame anybody. Maybe if we hit an early shot or hit a couple free throws, we wouldn’t be in that situation.”

Then again, Maryland was fortunate just to work its way back into the game. What had a chance to become a rout turned into a tight game, leaving the Terps to believe they aren’t too far away from shedding their recent woes.

“We played hard, and we never gave up in this game,” forward Dave Neal said. “It’s a good sign we have a good road ahead of us. It shows we’re never going to quit. I think we were the toughest team those last 10 minutes of the game. We were down 11 and never quit and kept fighting. I think that’s a good sign.”

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