Maryland has played its first four games of the 1990-91 season in a tight geographical region bounded by College Park to the east, Richmond to the south and Morgantown, W.Va. to the west. But for the remainder of the year, though the Terrapins may travel far and wide, there is little doubt about what will await them.
"Pressure defenses. The word is out that Maryland can't handle pressure," said forward Vince Broadnax.
Coach Gary Williams gave his team that message even before Maryland committed 19 turnovers Monday during a 100-85 loss to Boston College in the ACC-Big East Challenge series at Richmond Coliseum. For the season, Maryland (2-2) has 75 turnovers.
Mental and physical errors also were a problem last season, when the Terps committed 70 turnovers during their first four games and 27 in their fifth, an 87-65 loss to Connecticut.
But with players such as Tony Massenburg and Jerrod Mustaf, the 1989-90 team was able to reduce the errors as the season progressed. It's uncertain if this team will be able to do the same.
"Every team, no matter who you are, gets a certain number of easy shots each game," said Williams. "Our problem is we've been missing too many of ours or turning the ball over before we can even take them."
Poor ballhandling and spotty shooting has led Williams to ponder changes in the starting lineup before Saturday's game at Jacksonville. Maryland is hitting 45 percent of its shots, but Walt Williams and Matt Roe, who have taken 48 percent of the team's attempts, are making 39 and 43 percent, respectively.
One possibility would have Kevin McLinton starting at guard with Roe moving to small forward and Broadnax returning to the sixth-man role he filled last season. Such a move would put another ballhandler on the court and might jump-start the team's bench, which -- with the exception of McLinton -- has struggled so far.
Williams was open to all suggestions following the loss to the Eagles. Maryland played well in two spurts, holding Boston College to one field goal in the final 7:13 of the first half, and using a 17-3 run soon after intermission to take a 60-52 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
That advantage collapsed when the Terrapins turned over the ball on three straight possessions and Boston College hit two of its 10 three-point field goals. Terps center Cedric Lewis fouled out with 5:38 remaining, and Boston College used its inside advantage to outscore Maryland 19-8.
Lewis has been one of Maryland's most consistent performers, averaging 9.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.8 blocked shots in spearheading a defense that has played reasonably well. However, the Terrapins haven't parlayed that effort into points.
"I think we've worked hard on the boards, I really do, and the defense hasn't been great but it really isn't bad," said Gary Williams. "Where we really need improvement is in our ballhandling and shooting."
Williams said if Maryland can begin to beat defensive pressure, the shooting could improve in a motion offense designed to get Roe and other players open shots.
In the last two games, though, the Terrapins often have been scrambling just to cross midcourt with the required 10 seconds.
"What we may have to do is, if we're running a play, go through the options four or five times to try and break the defenses down," said Roe. "No one wants to have to play defense for that long; right now though, a lot of times we're just taking the first semi-open shot that we get."