Maryland vs. Virginia Tech: Hokies win key ACC road game, 74-57

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 21, 2011; 1:02 AM

Seeking desperately to compile a record worthy of NCAA tournament consideration, Maryland stumbled badly Thursday against an ACC rival with similar aspirations and more fight.

Outshot, outrebounded and out-hustled by an injury-depleted Virginia Tech team, the Terrapins fell, 74-57, despite a raucous crowd of 17,950 that did its best to give Maryland a decisive home-court advantage.

Instead, fans vented their frustration at their own during a particularly hapless stretch in the second half, booing the Terps after back-to-back turnovers led to yet another Hokies scoring spurt.

Maryland (11-7, 1-3) never led and, held to a season low in points, suffered its largest margin of defeat since Comcast Center opened in 2002.

The loss raises grave questions about Maryland's prospects for an NCAA bid, dropping the team to the bottom half of the ACC standings in what is widely regarded as a down year for the conference.

Coach Gary Williams took an unusually long time talking to his players in the locker room afterward.

"You wonder where that comes from," he said of his team's flat performance. "Hopefully that's a one-game thing, because the games we lost before weren't like that."

Maryland was outrebounded, 37-30, and allowed Tech to shoot 53.6 percent from the field - a season high for a Maryland opponent.

Jordan Williams succeeded in his bid to equal Len Elmore's school record of 12 consecutive double-doubles despite being held to just two first-half points. Williams reached the mark courtesy of an elbow to the head from Tech's Jeff Allen with 3 minutes 15 seconds remaining. Allen was called for an intentional foul, sending Williams to the free throw line, where he scored the 10th point he needed. He finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

It was a critical game for both teams. Virginia Tech (12-5, 3-2) entered the contest tied for fifth in the ACC; Maryland, eighth.

Tech had every reason to feel confident trotting onto the court, having won seven of its last eight games. Maryland, by contrast, was coming off a sapping three-game road stretch during which it led top 10 teams Duke and Villanova but lost to both down the stretch.

The game was emotionally charged from the start. Some fans, no doubt, remembered the obscene gesture that Allen, then a sophomore, had made toward the stands when Virginia Tech last visited Comcast, in February 2009. Others knew simply that Tech's senior guard Malcolm Delaney, a Baltimore native, on Wednesday characterized Maryland as having "maybe the worst fans ever."

Though Maryland's second semester doesn't start until Monday, the game drew a boisterous contingent of students who showered the Hokies with boos when they trotted out and shouted their customary taunt after each visiting starter's name was announced.

The hostility hardly ratted the Hokies, who hit their first five shots to bolt to a 12-0 lead.

Maryland, meantime, missed its first five shots and twice turned the ball over.

"I don't know what was wrong with us," conceded Cliff Tucker, who scored 11 of his team-high 13 points during a second-half burst. "We came out and started slow."

Tucker was re-inserted in the starting lineup Thursday along with freshman Pe'Shon Howard, who took over for Terrell Stoglin, denied the honor after being late for "a team thing," Gary Williams explained. Neither hit a basket in the first half, going a combined 0 for 7.

Adrian Bowie (10 points) finally got the Terps on the board after more than four minutes had elapsed. Bowie struck again following baskets by Sean Mosley and James Padgett to pull the Terps closer, 17-10.

But Tech was far more explosive, quick to convert Maryland turnovers to fast-break scores, and more assertive on the boards.

Tech also did a terrific defensive job on Jordan Williams, packing the zone with big bodies to make it difficult for the Terps to get the ball inside to the 6-foot-10 sophomore center who has carried them this season.

As a result, Williams didn't get his first basket until 4:52 remained in the first half. By then Maryland trailed, 30-19.

Bowie pared the deficit to single digits, 33-25. But Manny Atkins drilled Tech's fifth three-pointer as the buzzer expired to give the visitors a 40-29 lead at the break.

Tech's Erick Green, who led all players with 24 points, opened the second-half scoring.

Still, the Terps stuck with their offensive game plan, working the ball inside to Williams, Dino Gregory or Padgett given the chance. But when Tech's defenders collapsed on the big men, forcing them to kick to ball out to the perimeter, Maryland's outside players missed the shot more often than not.

Terps fans booed after turnovers on successive possessions led to four easy points and a 53-36 lead for Tech.

Tucker (13) single-handedly got the crowd and the Terps back in it, scoring 11 consecutive points for his team in less than two minutes to pare the lead to eight, 61-53, with 7:06 remaining.

The comeback was short-lived, snuffed out by yet another turnover that Tech's Green turned into an easy basket.

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