Terps Are Slipping Out of the Picture

Gary Williams
Despite Gary Williams' impassioned pleas, Maryland looks like a team that will miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. (Mark Wallheiser - Reuters)
By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 23, 2006

TALLAHASSEE, Feb. 22 -- With 10 minutes remaining and his team trailing by 18 points, Maryland Coach Gary Williams crossed his arms in the huddle during a timeout and made an impassioned plea to each player.

It did little to change the final outcome, a humbling 71-60 loss to Florida State at the Civic Center on Wednesday. In losing for the sixth time in eight games, Maryland increasingly appears like a team that will miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight season.

Foul trouble and poor shooting proved costly in the first half, when Maryland trailed by 14. The Seminoles simply outplayed Maryland in the second half, leading by as many as 20.

The Terrapins (16-10, 6-7 ACC) must win two of their three remaining regular season games and also a game in the first round of the ACC tournament to give them a reasonable chance to return to the NCAA tournament.

That task is particularly challenging considering two of the games -- Sunday at North Carolina and March 5 at Virginia -- are on the road, where Maryland is 1-6 this season and 3-13 the past two seasons. The lone remaining home game Wednesday looms large because Miami has soundly beaten the Terps the last two meetings.

"We'll find out what we're made of," Williams said. "If you're a team, I don't care what the situation is, you've got to believe you can win the last three. We'll see."

As if Wednesday's loss wasn't bad enough, the Terps received another dose of bad news Tuesday when Virginia scored an unexpected victory against Boston College and moved ahead of Maryland in the standings.

Maryland now sits in eighth place in the ACC, a conference expected to receive no more than five NCAA tournament bids.

"Everyone is counting us out," D.J. Strawberry said, "but until Selection Sunday, we're really not out, so we have to do everything we can to pull out wins."

Florida State, which has won more than six games in the ACC for the first time since the 1992-93 season, improved its case for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament by improving to 17-7 overall and 7-6 in the conference.

"We have absolutely no room for error," Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton said.

Maryland threatened to make a serious run early in the second half, when the Terps sliced the deficit to six. But a key play occurred when Florida State's Al Thornton, who scored 27 points and added 12 rebounds, drove at Strawberry, then rose and sank a mid-range basket.

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