Maryland basketball: Losses at Miami have clouded Terps' view of the Sunshine State

Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin watches his 3-pointer go down in the Terrapins 79-77 win at Comcast Center. Stoglin scored 13 points and was 3 of 5 from three-point range.
Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin watches his 3-pointer go down in the Terrapins 79-77 win at Comcast Center. Stoglin scored 13 points and was 3 of 5 from three-point range. (The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo    
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 2, 2011; 1:17 AM

Duke's home-court advantage at Cameron Indoor Stadium comes largely from the ear-splitting proximity of the Blue Devils' raucous fans. At Allen Fieldhouse, which has hosted legendary Kansas teams for more than a half-century, it's the history of the building itself.

BankUnited Center bestows neither advantage on the University of Miami men's basketball team: The Hurricanes are averaging only 5,212 spectators per game this season at the 8,000-seat arena, which opened in 2003. Nonetheless, Maryland has lost all four of its games at the arena in Coral Gables, Fla., since the Hurricanes joined the ACC in 2004.

Wednesday night's meeting, then, gives the Terrapins a chance to snap that drought and reclaim a measure of momentum heading into Saturday's regular season finale against Virginia and the ACC tournament next week.

Maryland (18-11, 7-7) enters the game on the heels of an 87-76 loss at 19th-ranked North Carolina in which freshman guard Terrell Stoglin scored more points than any Terrapins player all season (28) and sophomore center Jordan Williams gutted through a painful stomach ailment to add 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds.

But, as has been the case often this season, Maryland lacked the offensive weapons and defensive intensity to topple an opponent with far more skill and talent. And with each defeat, the scenario for a stirring, late-season surge that delivers an at-large NCAA tournament bid becomes increasingly far-fetched.

The topic isn't even part of the discussions between Coach Gary Williams and his team as the regular season draws to a close. That said, Maryland is a better team than it was in the fall, unlike teams such as Michigan State and Villanova, to name a few squads whose results are trending otherwise.

The emergence of Stoglin as the Terrapins' biggest scoring threat has helped tremendously. So, too, has the evolution of senior forward Dino Gregory, whose improved jump shot has drawn defenders' attention from Jordan Williams, for far too long the only Maryland player who demanded coverage at all times.

The Terrapins also have made strides in their free throw shooting, a liability in earlier losses to Pittsburgh, Temple, Boston College, Duke and Villanova. Maryland made less than 60 percent of its attempts from the line in those defeats.

In their last nine games, the Terrapins have shot 76.5 percent from the line, a welcome improvement but likely too late to help salvage their NCAA tournament hopes.

The 6-foot-1 Stoglin has set the pace in that regard, as well. Named ACC rookie of the week for the second consecutive week, Stoglin ranks fifth in the conference in free throw shooting percentage (84.3) and was a perfect 10 of 10 from the line in the loss at Virginia Tech on Feb. 15.

"It's pretty much a mental thing," Stoglin said recently. "You gotta step up [to the free throw line] knowing you're gonna make the shot."

Said fellow freshman Pe'Shon Howard: "Probably the worst thing a team can do is foul T. You might as well let him shoot it."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2011 The Washington Post Company