- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Battered and bruised, Dave Neal spoke softly amid a rustling of travel bags Saturday after enduring the drubbing of a lifetime.

He came to Cameron Indoor Stadium with a shiner, a well-earned emblem of an elbow taken in victory a few days earlier. He and his Maryland teammates departed the old gym with a figurative black eye, the inevitable result of an 85-44 loss at Duke.

Just this month, Maryland has lost to an in-state opponent. Lost in overtime. Lost because it folded with a 17-point lead in the second half.

And now the Terrapins (13-6, 2-3 ACC) are trying to recover from their worst margin of defeat since World War II.

“We can’t get down,” Neal said.

Still, it can’t be easy to get up for Tuesday’s visit to Comcast Center by Boston College (15-6, 3-3). Not after what must have been one of Maryland’s most demoralizing losses in generations.

Put it this way: At least when Maryland lost 85-22 to Army in 1944, its opponent probably had access to a wild surplus of talent because of the historic conditions of the time.

There was no such rationale this time, even if the talent margin was heavily tilted all the same. And in some ways, it is probably best for the Terps to place Saturday’s evisceration far out of mind.

It’s the strategy of coach Gary Williams, who multiple times Monday insisted upon not dwelling on a single game - no matter how ugly - when more than half of the conference season remains.

“We’re 2-3 right now, but we’ve lost to the number one team in the country on their court, and we lost in overtime and we lost by two points for our three losses,” Williams said. “I don’t apologize. I’d have rather won two of those three games, but we didn’t. It’s not like we played poorly until the Duke game Saturday.”

That depends how far back anyone wants to look. Maryland has suffered eight losses with at least a 27-point margin in Williams’ 20 seasons. Two have come this year.

The other was a 75-48 throttling against Georgetown in November in the Old Spice Classic. The setback preceded a seven-game winning streak, a stretch that led Williams to begin campaigning for a spot in the national rankings.

Nary a peep on the subject has come in the past three weeks; nor should it since the Terps dropped four of six. Instead, the search for a way to improve is well underway.

“Sometimes you need to lose like this, and then you learn about what you have to get better at,” guard Greivis Vasquez said. “We definitely have to get better at some things, but at the same time we have a lot of things to work on and we have plenty of time. We just have to do it at the right time.”

Vasquez is partially right. Eleven games do not usually constitute plenty of time, though there is no shortage of ways Maryland could stand to improve Tuesday night against BC.

There’s rebounding, ball-handling, dealing with defensive pressure, reaching the foul line and effective perimeter shooting. In short, just about everything.

In particular, there was the lackluster shooting night from the starting backcourt of Vasquez, Adrian Bowie and Eric Hayes. The three combined for a 4-for-26 performance, and five Blue Devils players at least matched their combined nine points.

It was one of several unbearable statistics to emerge from the pummeling. Realistically, it wouldn’t be stunning if there was at least some sort of hangover from such a humbling performance.

“It can’t. It can’t,” Williams repeated. “That’s just not an option for the players.”

If it does, another black eye surely awaits.

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