Terps falter late in loss at Villanova

Adrian Bowie (10 points) drives for Maryland, which led by 12 before Villanova went on a 19-0 run.
Adrian Bowie (10 points) drives for Maryland, which led by 12 before Villanova went on a 19-0 run. (Barbara Johnston)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 16, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - With a 12-point lead and less than 10 minutes to play, Maryland stood poised Saturday to topple its first ranked opponent of the season and prove that it's a far better team than its record suggests.

But the signature victory the Terrapins so desperately needed to boost their NCAA tournament resume never materialized against No. 7 Villanova, which parlayed a veteran back court and the passion of a partisan home crowd into a 74-66 victory.

Led by senior guard Corey Fisher's shooting down the stretch, Villanova (16-1) scored 19 unanswered points to erase the Terrapins' lead and, with it, any notion of a comeback.

As has been the case all season, Maryland's fortunes rose and fell with sophomore center Jordan Williams, who led all players with 25 points and 14 rebounds, extending his consecutive streak of double-doubles to 11 games. But when Williams went more than five minutes without taking a shot in the second half, the Terrapins suffered mightily, failing to score a single point during a 7-minute 14-second stretch.

The prolonged drought was both a testament to Villanova's ability to clamp down on defense and a statement about Maryland's limited scoring options: During those rare stretches when Williams doesn't play up to par or is stymied by opposing defenses, Maryland (11-6) struggles to keep pace with its opponents.

Though the Terrapins are improving, they have yet to produce a clutch shooter, and poor free throw shooting continues to undermine their efforts (they were 10 of 18 from the foul line on Saturday). And it may take another season or more before Coach Gary Williams develops a back court with the savvy of Villanova's.

That's what set Maryland apart last season, with seniors Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes leading the Terrapins to a share of the ACC regular season title and a run to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Saturday's defeat was Maryland's fifth to a ranked team this season (following losses to Pittsburgh, Illinois, Temple and Duke). With each loss (all by single digits), the magnitude of the loss of Vasquez and Hayes becomes clearer.

Still, Coach Gary Williams refused to indulge in the language of despair Saturday, saying at the outset that he was pleased with his players' effort in their third road game this week.

"We had to really dig deep to play today," Williams said. "We played at a good level for about 33 minutes. But you know Villanova is not going to go away. You have to make shots when the other team gets hot.

"We still have a chance to have a good year in our league," Williams added. "We have to do it for 40 minutes rather than 33."

Despite Jordan Williams's dominance in the paint, it was a game that underscored the value of veteran guards. And Villanova, which extended its winning streak to 11 with the victory, is rich in that regard, with Fisher, Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes combining for 48 points.

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