Greg Manning, who does most of his talking with his jump shot, was the most eloquent man in the Maryland locker room Wednesday night after the Terrapins had blown a game to North Carolina.
While his coach talked about Carolina being fired up, while his teammates tried to slough off the loss by saying the Tar Heels played well or that they hadn't gotten the breaks, Manning was succinct.
"We just don't have the killer instinct like we did last year," the soft-spoken guard said. "When we get up 10 points on a team like Carolina we have to put them away, get the lead up to 20 points.
"We're not doing that. The killer instinct just isn't there right now."
One loss to Carolina in Chapel Hill is no reason to begin pressing panic buttons, but Coach Lefty Driesell clearly is concerned by the play of his guards. Dutch Morley, solid but unspectacular at the point, needs help and Reggie Jackson, his confidence at ebb tide, is not supplying that help.
As a result, Driesell is likely to begin giving freshman Steve Rivers some playing time, probably beginning with Saturday's game against Duke. Rivers is quick and shoots well but lacks experience. Because of Jackson's prolonged slump. Rivers is likely to begin getting that experience now.
"I don't exactly know what I'm going to do with the guard situation," Driesell said. "We've been experimenting some with Ernest (Graham) playing a little guard and we've played Steve a little. I'm not sure what I'm going to do."
The Graham experiment proved disastrous Wednesday. During the three minutes the Terps went with a Jackson-Graham backcourt, they were outscored, 10-2, and committed four turnovers in six possessions.
"Is just don't know what the problem is," Jackson said Yesterday. "I'm trying, I'm working, but things just aren't dropping."
And, beyond the trouble at guard, there is the problem of motivation. Unlike last year's, this is not a team that has to prove itself. That may be part of the "killer instinct" problem.
"But that shouldn't be a problem," said Albert King, who has upset Driesell at time this season by appearing to have punched his cruise control button against weaker opponents. "The only difference I can see is that the other teams are more up for us now than last year. When they play us now it's a big game for them. Last year, sometimes, it was only a big game for us."