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Posted at 10:32 AM ET, 03/08/2011

Terps’ ACC hopes hinge on defense, desire

No team has won four consecutive ACC Tournament games since the conference expanded to 12 teams in 2005-06. But that’s the only option left for Maryland (18-13, 7-9) if the Terps are to qualify for the NCAA Tournament after squandering any shot at an at-large bid by closing the regular season on a three-game losing skid.

Maryland didn’t win more than three conference games in succession during the season, defeating Clemson at Comcast Center and Virginia and Georgia Tech on the road in late January. Since then, they haven’t won more than two games in a row.

But tournaments don’t necessarily follow the script or the seeding, as freshman Pe’Shon Howard points out.

“One thing about the ACC Tournament, everybody’s starting zero-zero,” Howard noted after the 74-60 loss to Virginia. “You look at the women’s [ACC] tournament or any other tournament. Things don’t go the way that the seeding says. We’ve just got to be positive, stay together and don’t listen to anybody else.”

Don’t be surprised if Coach Gary Williams tinkers with his lineup for Thursday’s ACC opener against N.C. State, one of six ACC opponents that they beat during the regular season. Clearly disappointed by his team’s lack of intensity down the stretch, Williams said he’d evaluate this week’s practice sessions with an open mind, looking for “the right guys” to represent the Terps in their improbable pursuit.

The most meaningful thing Maryland can do to improve its chances of a deep run in the tournament is toughen up on defense.

While the Terps held opponents to 40.4 percent shooting from the field this season, they equaled or bettered that mark only once in the last seven games (a stretch in which they lost five of seven). That was in their 87-76 loss at North Carolina, in which they held the Heels to 40 percent shooting.

Three days later, they let Miami shoot 54.9 percent. And in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Comcast Center, they let Virginia shoot 44.1 percent.

Here’s a recap of how opposing offenses fared against Maryland in the Terps’ last seven games:

At Boston College, L, 72-76 – 48.2 percent from the field

At Virginia Tech, L, 83-91 - 45.3 percent

N.C. State, W, 87-80 – 49.2 percent

Florida State, W, 78-62 - 43.4 percent

At North Carolina, L, 76-87 – 40.0 percent

At Miami, L, 66-80 – 54.9 percent

Virginia, L, 60-74 – 44.1 percent

As freshmen Terrell Stoglin sized it up, Maryland’s defensive shortcomings weren’t so much the result of tactical failings as they were failings of effort—or, as he put it following the loss to Virginia, “not wanting to get after it on the defense end.”

“Coach Williams is doing a great job,” Stoglin said. “We just have got to want it ourselves. I mean, he can’t want it more than us. And he HAS been wanting it more than us! So we’ve just got to fix that.”

By  |  10:32 AM ET, 03/08/2011

 
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