In yet another in its continuing series of uninspired performances against weak opposition, Maryland managed to slide by Georgia Tech, 72-64, yesterday before 10,252 in Cole Field House.
Put simply, the Terps were bad. They let Georgia Tech, now 0-9 in the ACC and 4-15 overall, stay within striking distance almost the entire game. The Yellow Jackets finished the game with more field goals (28-26) than Maryland, which shot 49 percent from the floor.
"If we play like this Wednesday (against Wake Forest), we'll get blown out," said Coach Lefty Driesell, his head down, his voice only a little higher than a whisper. "I don't know what the problem is, but we're not playing with any poise or any intensity.
"We shouldn't be tired. Everybody else is beating Tech by 30 or 40 points and we win by eight. I don't know what it is. I'm completely buffaloed right now. Right now, we're in trouble."
If there was a bright spot for the Terps (5-2 in the ACC, 15-4 overall) it was the play of Charles Pittman. The 6-foot-8 junior reserve played his best game of the season, getting 17 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes as Driesell kept Albert King on the bench for 11 minutes. Greg Manning also played a solid game, finishing with 21 points on nine of 15 from the floor.
King, although he seemed to be jumping better, still didn't have his shooting touch, making only three of 12 from the floor and finishing with 11 points. To be fair, it was apparent each time he touched the ball that King's jammed thumb was troubling him.
"That's no excuse, though," King said. "You have to be able to play hurt. I think my problem today was more mental than physical. If we would've lost I would feel much worse."
Maryland wasn't about to lose yesterday. Although Tech is clearly a better team now than it was in December, it still doesn't belong on the same court with an ACC team. The Jackets got 20 points from George Thomas and 18 from Fred Hall, many on twisting, acrobatic shots they had no right to take, or make.
Still, they could do no better than 44 percent shooting from the floor (they are hitting only 46 percent for the season). But they did make the afternoon a long one for Buck Williams, who was pounded from all sides by Tech's big men. He still managed 17 rebounds but took only four shots from the floor, finishing with 11 points.
"It's hard to do much when every time the shot goes up you have two and three guys boxing out on you," said Williams, somber and upset by the team's performance. "The way we're rebounding right now is killing us. We have to get the ball off the glass somehow if we're going to beat good teams.
"We're just not hungry right now. We haven't rebounded at all the last few games."
The Terps outrebounded Tech, 38-34, yesterday, but take out Williams' 17 and the figures aren't encouraging.
"Hey, give us some credit," Tech guard Stu Lyon said. "We're getting better with each game. Our attitude is to go out each game and try to get better. We're doing that. Today, we had a chance for a while in the second half."
That was why Driesell and his players were so upset. The Terps only led by four most of the first half and by 34-28 at intermission. Tech actually had a chance to cut the lead to two early in the second half, but Thomas missed a layup. Slowly, Maryland built its lead, gettting it to 45-36 with 13:34 left on a Manning jumper. That came a minute before King tossed an air ball and was awarded a seat next to Driesell.
A Pittman hook made it 52-40, the Terps' biggest lead, and they coasted from there, the crowd watching in near silence. Not once did Maryland give them reason to go wild. No dunks. Little transition. Zero momentum.
"These are the kinds of games that should be fun," Manning said. "We should beat teams like Pitt or Tech by 30 or 40 and we're not doing it.This should have been a relief and it wasn't."
It certainly was no relief to Driesell who appeared confused an frustrated. "I don't know whether we just can't get up for these teams or if we're not any good," he said. "All I know right now is, we'll find out Wednesday."