Maryland continues to reel in the aftermath of its ghastly meltdown against Duke
Maryland senior forward Terence Morris sat speechless in the locker room for several minutes after a 96-82 loss at top-ranked North Carolina last Saturday, the Terrapins' fourth defeat in five games. Morris contemplated the fact that Maryland (15-8, 6-5 in the ACC), which many preseason prognosticators thought might reach its first Final Four this year, was fighting to remain among the top four teams in the ACC. Eventually he murmured, "Lately we're very inconsistent with our defense and shot selection, and that's put us in a funk. There's nothing else to say."
The Terps' slump began on Jan. 27 in College Park when Maryland led Duke by 10 points with 54 seconds remaining in regulation, only to lose 98-96 in overtime. It was a devastating defeat because the Terps played as well as any team had this season for 39 minutes, followed by perhaps the ugliest minute of the year. After that loss Maryland fans were chastised because a partially filled bottle thrown from the stands had struck Duke center Carlos Boozer's mother, Renee, on the head, but it was the Terps who emerged from the game woozy. "That night was a bombshell in terms of our momentum and confidence," Maryland coach Gary Williams says. "When you have a marquee game like that won and all of a sudden it's yanked from you, it has a hangover effect."
Four days after the Duke debacle, the Terps lost 99-78 at Virginia, their most lopsided defeat of the season. Then after a 69-54 home victory over ACC bottom-feeder Clemson, Maryland imploded in a 72-62 defeat at Georgia Tech, producing a season low in points and a season-high 23 turnovers. The loss left one Terrapins coach so frustrated that he left two holes in a wall inside the visitors' locker room.
In troubled times, a team will turn to a senior captain or its best player. Morris is both for Maryland, but he's also college basketball's Garbo, one of the game's brighter stars and one of its quieter voices. Morris has the humble attitude of a guy who never attended the national summer basketball camps and attracted relatively scant attention coming out of Governor Thomas Johnson High in Frederick, Md. As a 12th-grader, Morris still rode the bus to school. "Terence doesn't have the sense of entitlement, the ego that a lot of other players have, and his critics see that as a flaw?' says Tom Dickman, Morris's high school coach. "He's immensely talented, but if you're looking for a Knute Rockne speech, you'd better find somebody else."
On the court Morris is often selfless to a fault. A 6'9" sharpshooter who several NBA scouts predict will be a first-round pick, Morris was averaging 16.1 points and 10.3 rebounds in league games through Sunday, but he was attempting fewer than 13 shots per game. On Saturday three other Terps launched more shots than Morris, who took only 11 as Maryland floundered. Williams has given up on pushing Morris to be more selfish, accepting that it's not in his makeup, and he acknowledges that the Terps lack a natural leader. "We're a group of nice individuals," Williams says. "We can't just go to a waiver wire, pick up a nasty guy and say, 'O.K., you're our leader.' "
Williams reminds anyone who'll listen that there's no shame in running third in the ACC standings behind North Carolina and No. 3 Duke. However, who would have thought Maryland would have been tied with Georgia Tech, with a 6-5 league record, at week's end? Further, there's growing anxiety among Terps fans over Maryland's 1-6 record against ranked teams this season and the lingering trauma of the Duke collapse. "I never thought our hangover would last this long," said junior guard Juan Dixon after the North Carolina loss. "We badly need some wins. Wins are aspirin."
Gonzaga Keeps Going
Calvary Leading A Stampede
When Gonzaga lost All-West Coast Conference guards Richie Frahm and Matt Santangelo to graduation and brought in eight new players this season, most wags thought the Zags would slag to no better than third in the league, behind Pepperdine and San Diego. But given Gonzaga's 18-5 record and 10-0 conference mark through Sunday, a different assessment now prevails: The school that gave us John Stockton knows how to restock. "We may have different faces," says senior forward Casey Calvary, a veteran of two Sweet 16 runs, "but the way we've played isn't different at all."
Gonzaga owes much of the success to Calvary, a 6'8" pogo stick whose 20.6 points and 6.5 rebounds a game move admittedly biased Zags coach Mark Few to pronounce him not only the best Casey on the left coast (sorry, Mr. Jacobsen) but the best player as well. "[ Stanford's] Casey Jacobsen is having a nice year, but he doesn't dominate the way our Casey does," says Few. "Plus Calvary's facing double teams every night. If you put him in an NBA game right now, he wouldn't be outclassed athletically. I think he's a 12-to 14-year NBA guy."