Maryland's players acknowledged they expect to receive a lower seeding in the upcoming NCAA tournament as a result of Sunday's 80-78 upset loss at Virginia. With the postseason beginning Friday at the ACC tournament, the Terrapins must find a way to salvage their collective confidence and shake center Ryan Randle from his slump.
After Sunday's game, which ended a four-game winning streak, Coach Gary Williams was particularly upset with what he perceived to be a lack of enthusiasm from his team in the first half.
"I didn't think we were really fired up coming out to play," he said. "I don't know why. I'm sure we have some excuses, but they are excuses."
Williams did not direct his comments at any specific players, but Randle apparently was one of the main targets.
Randle finished with 13 points and six rebounds but was part of a front court that was significantly outplayed. Maryland was outrebounded 59-36, allowed 25 second-chance points and generally was dominated inside.
Maryland's players and coaches have the sense that a game's first few minutes often dictate how Randle plays. On Sunday, seldom-used forward Jason Rogers blocked two of Randle's shots in the first four minutes and Randle soon was banished to the bench for four minutes. He did not score in the first half and particularly drew the ire of Williams when he was called for traveling after trying to dribble beyond the three-point arc on one occasion.
After one timeout, forward Calvin McCall appeared to try to give Randle a few pointers, but Randle seemed to be in no mood for criticism, quickly brushing off McCall as the two sat side-by-side on the bench.
Randle got going somewhat in the second half, but he failed to make two free throws to convert a pair of three-point plays. Although he made a game-tying dunk with 29 seconds left in regulation, Randle seemed to tire late in the game and missed an uncontested dunk in overtime before missing a chance to send the game to a second overtime, his last-second uncontested tip-in rolling off the rim just before time expired.
"We, as a team, have to rebound better, and we have to score inside," Williams said yesterday. "That's part of being a good team. You can't depend on jump shots to be the only weapon you have. We're a pretty good shooting team from the perimeter, but Tahj [Holden] and [Randle] being seniors, you look at them to get it done and we couldn't do it against Virginia."
It was the second consecutive subpar performance by Randle, who had six points and one rebound in the Terrapins' previous game against North Carolina State. In that game, the Wolfpack made it obvious that they wanted to attack Randle early and he never seemed to get in a rhythm.
When he has played well this season, Randle at times has been a force inside. He had 20 points and 16 rebounds in an early-season loss at Indiana and 15 points and 17 rebounds in a victory over Duke. He was selected third-team all-ACC, it was announced yesterday.
Randle should get a chance to get back on track Friday, when second-seeded Maryland plays seventh-seeded North Carolina in the ACC tournament quarterfinals.
"We'll find out on Friday when we play," said power forward Tahj Holden, who had two rebounds in 34 minutes against Virginia. "If we come out ready to play, then [Sunday's loss] hasn't affected us. We have to have a decent week of practice and go down there and win the tournament. . . . With the guys we have and the type of team we have, we tend to bounce back pretty well from things like this. But we won't know until Friday."
The Terrapins expect to feel the effects of Sunday's loss when the NCAA tournament field is announced this coming Sunday night.
"It's going to hurt us in the big tournament," said point guard Steve Blake, who yesterday was named first-team all-ACC and one of the 22 finalists for the Wooden Award, given to college basketball's best player. "It possibly could slide us down a few seeds, I guess. We've got to put that on ourselves. We need to make up for it."
ACC Notes: Joining Blake on the all-ACC first team were forwards Josh Howard of Wake Forest, Julius Hodge of N.C. State and Dahntay Jones of Duke and Clemson guard Edward Scott. Maryland guard Drew Nicholas was joined on the second team by Virginia center Travis Watson, forwards Chris Bosh of Georgia Tech and Vytas Danelius of Wake Forest and Florida State guard Tim Pickett.