After Gary Williams walked out of MCI Center late Monday night carrying a crumpled copy of the box score, the Maryland coach returned home to watch videotape of the loss to George Washington. Then he replayed the 40 minutes in his mind countless more times.
He blamed himself for the loss. And by 7 a.m., he was back in his Comcast Center office.
"I was a football coach today," he said of the day's early start.
He also was a tired and frustrated basketball coach trying to figure out why his players committed a season-high 25 turnovers in a 78-70 defeat. George Washington was the first school to employ such pressure defense against the Terps this season but surely won't be the last.
The preseason's primary question remains unanswered: How will Maryland function without an experienced and natural point guard? Even last season, when the erratic John Gilchrist ran the point, the Terps never committed as many turnovers in a game.
In last month's Maui Invitational, Maryland committed 23 against then-eighth-ranked Gonzaga, but many of those were unforced errors because the Bulldogs played zone defense. On Monday against an athletic and physical Colonials team, Maryland players badly overthrew passes and lost control of the ball before reaching half court.
Williams took responsibility for not preparing his players properly for the press.
Afterward, Williams said, some players were banged up physically. Forward James Gist hurt his thigh muscle. And some, Williams added, were banged up mentally. Williams expects point guard D.J. Strawberry to rebound after a rough night in which he turned over the ball seven times and struggled to get the team into its offense.
Maryland (5-2) had only three assists in the first half, as Williams watched players quickly lose patience and dribble immediately after catching the ball.
Strawberry, who collected a total of 17 assists and only one turnover in his previous two games, still remains a work in progress at the point. He returned home to California this summer to work on ballhandling but still shows signs of a player who occasionally played the position as a freshman and never in high school.
"As you know, they are trying to convert some guys to the point guard position," George Washington Coach Karl Hobbs said. "We wanted to make them have to make decisions, and have to make decisions at a quick speed. When they got the ball over half court, they did a good job of scoring, they shot 55 percent in the second half. It's hard to win a basketball game when a team shoots 55 percent in the second half, but you'd better be stealing the ball."
Williams would like his 21st-ranked team to be pressed again tonight against Western Carolina. Larry Hunter, the Catamounts' first-year coach, was an assistant the past four seasons at North Carolina State under Herb Sendek, who embraces the deliberate, Princeton-like offense that caused Maryland problems last season.
While the system will be similar to the Wolfpack's, Western Carolina (5-5) lacks comparable personnel. Eight players are either freshmen or sophomores and only one starter is taller than 6 feet 4.