By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 14, 2008; E01
CHARLOTTE, March 13 -- Maryland players had prepared for a four-game run they hoped would vault them into the NCAA tournament. Instead, they provided a one-game performance that typified their entire season.
Maryland saw its NCAA tournament hopes dashed after suffering another late-game, late-season meltdown. The Terrapins squandered a 15-point, first-half lead in a 71-68 loss to Boston College on Thursday in the opening round of the ACC tournament at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
Maryland (18-14) has lost six of its last eight games, and the Terrapins were unable to hold double-digit leads against Virginia Tech, Clemson and Boston College. In the last six games, Maryland has been outscored in the second half by a combined score of 265-204.
"It is like we just quit on our season," Maryland forward Bambale Osby said. "We get up 20 points, 10 points, 15 points, and we just say, 'All right, we won the game.' And we just let it go. I just don't know what to say about it."
The Terrapins will make their third appearance in the National Invitation Tournament in the last four years. Maryland Coach Gary Williams, who was not enthused about playing in the NIT two years ago, said his team would compete, if invited, because it would help the development of six freshmen and allow senior James Gist to shine.
"It is going to be hard," Greivis Vasquez said. "It is going to be real hard. I just can't see myself in that tournament. It is what it is."
The Eagles turned a 15-point deficit into a 10-point advantage with less than four minutes remaining. Maryland had a final run left in it, closing the gap to three points, but the Terrapins committed too many costly turnovers throughout to overcome sloppy play.
Boston College grabbed 21 offensive rebounds and won the rebounding battle, 41-31. Maryland committed 21 turnovers against a Boston College team that had lost 12 of its last 13 games entering Thursday night's matchup.
"We have gotten some experiences in those losses," Eagles Coach Al Skinner said. "And our guys were not going to cave in."
After scoring two points in the first half, Boston College standout Tyrese Rice erupted in the second half to score 17 of his team-high 19 points.
"They kept a lot of bodies around me in the first half," Rice said. "In the second half, we got more deflections and the [fast] break was not as structured. It made it a lot easier the way we played defense."
Maryland built on a six-point halftime lead early in the second half when Gist made a corner three-pointer and a mid-range shot from the same corner to give the Terrapins a 36-25 advantage. But Gist became enamored with the outside shot, missing three over the next several minutes to allow the Eagles to gather momentum.
Boston College whittled the deficit to five points after Rice stepped back to sink a three-pointer from the top of the key. Moments later, Rice made an acrobatic layup amid defenders to cut Maryland's lead to one. After a Maryland timeout, Boston College's Biko Paris scored a layup to give the Eagles the lead with 12 minutes 40 seconds remaining.
Three minutes later, the Terrapins regained the lead when freshman Adrian Bowie scored a layup in transition. But turnovers continued to be Maryland's problem. Rakim Sanders made a corner three-pointer to give the Eagles a 52-50 lead with 6:50 remaining.
Maryland seemingly controlled the game from the opening tip, but it came too easily for the Terrapins. They took a 13-5 lead four minutes into action without getting a point from Vasquez, the team's leading scorer. Guard Eric Hayes scored two baskets, including a three-pointer, and forward Landon Milbourne scored two baskets, including a dunk.
With Rice unable to generate much offense, Boston College had few options. Maryland held the Eagles scoreless for almost five minutes, outscoring them 13-0 to take command of the game. Williams used three reserves -- Bowie, Cliff Tucker and Jerome Burney -- extensively in the first half. But Maryland has not dealt with prosperity well over the past month and failed to sustain that level of play the entire half. Sanders made a three-pointer to cut the deficit to three points with 1:30 remaining in the half.
"I thought we had a chance to put them away in the first half, but we allowed them to see the light," Williams said.
One month ago, Maryland was well positioned to return to the NCAA tournament. Now players will have an offseason to ponder a handful of late-season meltdowns that denied the Terrapins a berth.
"It was disappointing," Vasquez said. "This is one of the toughest years of my life. Too much ups and downs. It was a roller-coaster year for me. I feel like I let my team down, big-time. That's how it is, you know."