As he walked down a narrow corridor toward the team bus late Tuesday night, Steve Blake had a white towel around his head. Assistant coach Jimmy Patsos put an arm around Maryland's senior point guard and offered some consoling words, but from the look on Blake's face, nothing was going to erase the disappointment caused by the ninth-ranked Terrapins' 80-74 overtime loss to 10th-ranked Indiana.
While Blake's displeasure was not going to fade immediately, Maryland Coach Gary Williams saw some positives that came out of his team's first loss of the season.
"Let's face it: We've been on a roll," said Williams, whose team led most of the game, including by four points with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation. "Here is a good chance to reevaluate everything.
"I need to make sure they understand they played a heck of a game in a pressure situation on the road. Give our guys credit for what they did. There is no game this year where there will be a team with more motivation than Indiana had to play us. . . . We've got to learn to [finish games]. But if it takes one game to do that, then it's worth it."
Williams was pleased with his team's intensity and effort. In an extremely physical game, Maryland held Indiana to 29.9 percent shooting and held a 56-49 rebounding advantage. Center Ryan Randle emerged as a potential force inside, with 20 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, setting or matching career highs in each category.
However, the Terrapins' offense was lacking. Unlike past seasons, when everyone knew to get the ball to Juan Dixon or Lonny Baxter in key situations, Maryland (3-1) has yet to establish a go-to scorer. In overtime, the Terrapins attempted six shots by five players. Randle was the team's most effective scorer inside, but he tried an ill-advised three-point attempt with six minutes left and touched the ball infrequently the rest of the game.
Blake, still adapting to more of a scoring role, made 8 of 18 shots and scored a career-high 22 points, but occasionally forced plays.
Guard Drew Nicholas, the team's most natural scorer, endured perhaps the worst shooting game of his career. Nicholas finished 3 of 11 and did not look for his shot after early struggles, taking just three in the second half and overtime.
When the Terrapins return to practice today for Saturday's game against Notre Dame in the BB&T Classic at MCI Center, Williams almost certainly will stress that Nicholas needs to keep shooting and that his teammates need to continue doing what they do best. With Maryland nursing a three-point lead in the final two minutes of regulation, forward Calvin McCall, who to that point was scoreless, missed a three-point attempt. Randle took just one shot in the five-minute overtime, a 17-foot jumper from the right wing. Blake did not shoot in overtime until the final minute.
"We're a different team," Williams said. "You try to find what can make this the best possible team. That's what we're looking for. Last year, we were one way. This year, you don't do the same thing. . . . Last year, we had total belief in what we were doing -- that came over a two-year period. This year, we don't have that. We're too quick to break down with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. We've got to be more patient."
Williams might make an adjustment in the starting lineup prior to Saturday. With McCall struggling at times -- he had six turnovers against Indiana and has been little threat offensively, shooting 6 of 15 for 13 points in four games combined -- Nik Caner-Medley might become the first freshman in two seasons to start a game.
The freshman trio of Caner-Medley, guard John Gilchrist and forward Travis Garrison performed well Tuesday, combining for 12 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks. Garrison, in particular, came through when needed, playing most of the final 14 minutes and overtime because Tahj Holden had fouled out.
"You don't get a tougher environment than that," Williams said. "That those guys did that there was great to see."