Juan Dixon almost had enough to put 18th-ranked Maryland on his slight frame and carry the Terrapins to victory tonight. However, after scoring 31 points, Dixon was unable to make a game-winning shot.
Out of timeouts, the Terrapins had a last-second chance at victory. But Dixon, who scored 15 of his team's 17 points during one stretch of the second half, got caught in the air and threw the ball away as time expired, leaving Maryland with a 69-68 loss to Georgia Tech at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
The loss gives Maryland (11-5, 0-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) its first three-game losing streak in three seasons. The Terrapins are in next-to-last place in the conference, ahead of only Clemson (0-4 ACC). Georgia Tech, which had lost seven consecutive games against Maryland, is 8-7, 1-2.
"It is disappointing not to win this game," said Maryland Coach Gary Williams, whose team started quickly and led by 11 points in the first half. "We have to get better. We're not good enough to win a game like this."
The Terrapins had several players in foul trouble in the second half and got little production from 6-foot-9 forward Terence Morris, the preseason conference player of the year. He finished with 11 points and 4-of-12 shooting after struggling against Georgia Tech's 7-foot Alvin Jones.
"I have a lot of thoughts [about Morris's inability to assert himself], but I'll keep them to myself," Williams said. "He has been a good player for our program, and he will get it back. He had a tough night tonight."
Center Lonny Baxter also struggled inside, scoring 12 points and going 6 for 14. But the 6-8 Baxter also had five turnovers trying to maneuver around Jones (five blocks) and 7-foot Jason Collier. Maryland used its final timeout with more than eight minutes remaining when freshman guard Drew Nicholas was unable to inbound the ball.
The Terrapins also were hurt by the Yellow Jackets' outside shooting. Despite Williams voicing concern to limit Georgia Tech's three-point shots, the Yellow Jackets were 9 of 17 from three-point range.
Still, Maryland had a chance to win in the closing seconds. Forward Danny Miller made a three-pointer from the right wing with 43.8 seconds to bring the Terrapins to 69-68. Trailing by one and with an eight-second difference between the shot clock and the game clock, Maryland elected not to foul.
With the shot clock running down, Dixon blocked Shaun Fein's running shot and Morris grabbed the rebound. He gave the ball to Steve Blake, who pushed the ball up the court but appeared tentative. He passed up a shot and instead of going to the basket, handed off to Dixon near the three-point line at the top of the key.
Dixon tried to drive, but as he spun in the air, he ran into Jones and tried to pass just before landing on the floor. The ball bounced into the Maryland bench as time expired.
"It's a situation where I've got to get a shot off," said the 6-3, 152-pound Dixon, who made a game-winning jumper in the closing seconds of Maryland's 69-67 victory over Illinois on Dec. 4. "I passed up a shot [out high]. I don't know if I was open or not, but I've got to get a shot off."
Said Williams: "We work on that situation in practice, but we didn't execute it tonight. . . . [Blake] is a freshman, but I think if he could do it again, he would take it to the hole and try to get fouled."
Early on, it appeared the Terrapins would not need any last-ditch chances to win tonight. Bucking a recent trend, Maryland played its best basketball in the opening minutes. Dixon, who had been in a major shooting slump made his first three-point shot in more than one month and the Terrapins made seven of their first nine shots.
Meantime, Georgia Tech shot poorly and had problems handling the ball as Maryland built an 18-7 lead that it maintained much of the first half. However, the Terrapins struggled in the closing minutes of the half, and their lead was down to 39-35 at halftime.
After Dixon made a short jumper to give Maryland a 41-39 lead early in the second half, the Terrapins went scoreless for nearly five minutes. During the stretch, Maryland missed six consecutive shots and had four turnovers, all unforced. On one play, the Terrapins had a two-on-one advantage, but Dixon threw a pass at Morris's feet and the Terrapins lost the ball.