Maryland Terrapins keep to a tight schedule as ACC play begins in earnest

After facing Florida State, Landon Milbourne's Terrapins have another tall order in Wake Forest.
After facing Florida State, Landon Milbourne's Terrapins have another tall order in Wake Forest. (Jonathan Newton/the Washington Post)
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By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A few minutes shy of 8 p.m. Sunday -- less than nine minutes after he began his postgame news conference, less than 30 minutes after his team had defeated a ranked Florida State squad in its ACC opener -- Maryland Coach Gary Williams left a podium in the auxiliary gym at Comcast Center and began the 48-hour scramble toward the Terrapins' second conference game, Tuesday at Wake Forest (11-3, 1-1 ACC).

In his opening remarks, Williams noted his team wouldn't be able to enjoy its first signature victory of the season, not with such a quick turnaround ahead. He answered a final question, strode down the first-floor concourse, took a right at the red carpet and marched down a flight of stairs before entering the team's locker room.

Over the following two days, the Terrapins (10-4, 1-0) would be taxed mentally and physically as they simultaneously recovered from one physical conference opponent and prepared for another. Though Williams pointed out in recent weeks that no other ACC team had to start its conference slate with two games in three days, he said Monday that this is the sort of stretch teams have to be able to handle if they hold aspirations of reaching the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament.

"We just tell our players -- and I'm serious about this -- we tell them that they can't be tired," Williams said. "We can play two games in three days. We have to. We played three in three days [at the Maui Invitational in November], so you have to do it. Tired is an excuse. It's just an excuse."

Following a 15-minute chat with reporters Monday, Williams went to a team practice that began with a review of game film. In the absence of proper recovery time, Williams said mental preparation takes precedence over physical exertion, and scouring tape of previous Wake Forest games for tendencies and scheme patterns plays a significant role.

It was the method Williams used as a player at Maryland in the 1960s, watching filmstrip on a projection screen. And it was the method Williams used into the early hours of Monday morning, albeit in much higher definition. After his postgame news conference Sunday night, Williams prepared for a team meeting while three players spoke to the media in a room across the hall.

Senior forward Landon Milbourne talked about how Maryland's concentration on feeding the ball into the post had contributed to getting Florida State's 7-foot-1 shot-blocking center Solomon Alabi into early foul trouble.

"Every time he was in the game, [freshman forward] Jordan [Williams] posted him up and we tried to give him the ball and take it to him," Milbourne said. "We were pretty smart when it came to that, and that might be a tool that we have to use when we go against bigger teams."

Wake Forest -- with four players 6-9 or taller in its rotation -- would qualify as such. The Demon Deacons own a plus-7.6 rebounding margin.

However, the Terrapins proved Sunday they could out-perform taller opposing lineups on the boards by winning the rebounding battle against Florida State, 40-34.

"Our will was just so much bigger" than Florida State's, senior guard Greivis Vasquez said. "We wanted it so bad, and when we look like that, to me it's scary because we're going to go against anybody, and we're going to win the game regardless."

At 8:45 p.m. Sunday, the team met to go over Wake Forest's personnel. Maryland assistants had spent part of the previous week preparing a scouting report on the Demon Deacons for the players, who were refreshed on the talents of Demon Deacons point guard Ishmael Smith -- "There's nobody quicker than Smith foul line to foul line with the ball," Gary Williams said -- and of forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who averages 16.8 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.

Gary Williams got home around 10:30 p.m. and reviewed Wake Forest's most recent game -- a one-point loss at Miami on Saturday -- for the next two hours. He was back at Comcast Center by 7 a.m. Monday morning, set to view tape once again.

The team practiced in the early afternoon before boarding a flight to Greensboro, N.C. Two hours later, the Terrapins gathered for a meal and prepared to go over more film.

"It's a tough deal, but I think most coaches in our conference, if you have to play with a one-day turnaround you would rather play on the road first and at home second, but here we are and we have to handle it," Gary Williams said. "There's no excuses by the time we get to Wake Forest."

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