On a board inside the Maryland locker room, Terrapins Coach Gary Williams wrote three things his team could do after losing its third consecutive game, 69-68 at Georgia Tech on Saturday night:
B) Stay the same.
C) Fix it.
"It" being the inconsistent play that has led to Maryland's longest losing streak in three seasons. After a promising start that included Maryland's first victory over Kentucky since 1957 and a five-game winning streak, the Terrapins (11-5, 0-3) are eighth in the nine-team ACC.
"It is real disappointing," shooting guard Juan Dixon said Saturday, his voice barely audible in the nearly silent locker room. "This is the first time I have experienced anything like this here. . . . We have to be able to fix it. We just have to work hard in practice and get it done."
Dixon and point guard Steve Blake (eight assists in 31 minutes) might be the only Terrapins not in need of a major tuneup. However, after Dixon's career-high 31 points gave Maryland an opportunity to beat Georgia Tech, the Terrapins' guards bungled the final possession.
After a three-pointer by Danny Miller pulled Maryland within 69-68 with 43 seconds left, the Terrapins played strong defense and Dixon blocked a shot by Shaun Fein with about 10 seconds left. Forward Terence Morris grabbed the ball and gave it to Blake, who dribbled up court.
But instead of driving to the basket, Blake pulled up and passed to Dixon. Dixon dribbled into the lane, spun and went up to shoot, but was confronted by 6-foot-11 Alvin Jones and threw away the ball.
Other than that miscue, Dixon was brilliant, almost single-handedly keeping Maryland in the game. During a stretch of the second half, the 6-3, 152-pound guard scored 15 of 17 points by the Terrapins and had an assist on the other basket.
Maryland got little production from its front court. Center Lonny Baxter, who is 6-8, and 6-9 Morris never got going against Jones (five blocks) and 7-foot Jason Collier. Baxter had five of the Terrapins' 16 turnovers, several while trying to avoid having his shot blocked. Morris finished 4 of 12 for 11 points; his only points in the final 13 minutes came on three free throws with 1:01 left.
Williams has been hesitant to criticize his players, but he strongly hinted that he wants Morris to become more of an offensive force. Morris--the preseason ACC player of the year and a preseason first-team all-American--leads the Terrapins in scoring at 16.7 points per game. But he has been passive at times and has not looked comfortable on the few occasions he has tried to assert himself. On Saturday, he struggled inside against taller defenders and had problems outside as he tried to adjust his shot to get it over the outstretched arms of Jones and Collier.
It was not the first time Morris almost disappeared down the stretch. He did not score in the final 10 minutes of a 68-66 loss to North Carolina State on Jan. 6.
If Morris is able to change his course, fixing things will become much easier for the Terrapins.
Asked after Saturday's game to comment on Morris's struggles, Williams responded: "I really don't know. I have a lot of thoughts, but I'll keep them to myself."