Stingy Defense Lifts Terps Past Noles, 78-62

Maryland's play an encouraging sign towards team's post-season aspirations

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Entering Wednesday night's showdown featuring Maryland (18-10, 7-6) and Florida State (19-8, 9-4), it was the visiting team forecasted to exert its force on the defensive end.

Instead, The Terrapins reversed course on the defensive-minded Seminoles. In a 78-62 victory, Maryland held their opponent to the third lowest point total against Atlantic Coast Conference foes this season.

It is a tremendous team effort, especially on the defensive end of the court – you don't do that," Maryland head coach Gary Williams said," especially against a team like that with their size and quickness."

After a 10-2 Seminoles run to close the first half, Williams offered two resolutions – you can go out and player better, or you can fill your mind with regret and settle.

An assorted mix of 2-3 zone and man-to-man defenses, in addition to a relentless full-court press, stifled at the onset of the second the half helped Maryland create separation. Florida State went five consecutive possessions without a field goal, while Maryland dispatched on a 9-2 run, enough to establish a lead they would not relent.

"I think we have a lot of pride," Williams proclaimed. "We just talked about it at halftime – we're better than that. They were willing to come out and work," an attribute to the players.

Senior forward Dino Gregory ranked it among the best defensive efforts that the team has wielded all season.

But after the opening tip, it did not look as if defense would be the theme of the evening. Junior guard Deividas Dulkys dropped a pair of 3-pointers and completed a three-point play, helping Florida State run out to a 9-2 lead.

The poor perimeter defense prompted Williams to call a quick timeout, and make amendments to the No. 4 3-point FG defense in the ACC. The Seminoles made just three shots from beyond the arc afterwards, including a wretched 20 percent in the second half.

Conversely, the Terrapins, who took and missed just a single 3-pointer against N.C. State Sunday, sought to atone their perimeter shooting, or lack thereof. Led by Terrell Stoglin's game-high trio of 3-pointers, Maryland shot a collective 50 percent from downtown, with four different players hitting a shot from deep.

"Good teams find what works to win games," Williams said after opening his post-game press conference with a witty comment about those who fret over whether the 3-pointer was still part of the offense.

"We didn't take many shots on the perimeter that were contested. We made the extra pass to get the open shot. I was really pleased with that."

Added Adrian Bowie, "We're good shooters; we just haven't knocked them down consistently. We had a day today when it knocked it down, and it made it easier to drive when we knocked down jump shots.

After a barren three-game stretch where he totaled just eight points, including a scoreless effort Sunday, Bowie played in the mold of a prized fighter. Bowie scored 12 points on 4-5 shooting from the field with a game-high six assists.

Appearing more aggressive than usual, Bowie preferred not to settle for difficult shots but looked to drive towards the rim when he touched the ball. More often than not, a drive that did not result in a layup allowed Bowie to find a wide-open teammate or an opportunity at the free-throw stripe.

"He just looked comfortable. He got into a good zone early. I think Adrian wants somebody to knock him down early, get him up, get him mad," Williams said.

"It's like a personal challenge when someone knocks you down. It definitely made me more aggressive and want to attack," Bowie acknowledged.

Williams was comforted by the stellar play of his veteran guard. "We need Adrian. You have a senior guard who has made big shots, that has played in big games. You need guys like that down the stretch."

With Bowie and the other cast of perimeter players shouldering the load, the weight of the offense was taken off the shoulders of Jordan Williams. The Seminoles clamped down the Terrapins center early on, limiting him to just one field goal attempt in the first half.

Still, Williams was able to get going in the second half. He finished with yet another double-double, 11 points and 11 rebounds. The double-double is Williams' 21st on the season, one shy of the school record set by Len Elmore in 1974. Earlier this year, Williams surpassed another record previously held by Elmore when he registered a 13-game double-double streak.

Williams also surpassed the 600 career rebound mark. He is the 28th Terrapin to do so, though joins Joe Smith as the only other to do so in his sophomore campaign.

The win marked the Terrapins' 18th of the season, moving them to over .500 in conference play. As the evening of ACC basketball came to a close, the team sits fifth in the standings.

ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi predicted earlier in the day that the ACC would be granted five bids to the N.C.A.A. Tournament, and considered Maryland as a "bubble team" – one of 21 teams vying for 10 final spots.

Still, Williams suggests 18 wins speaks for itself.

"I don't know what is going to happen. We have put ourselves in a good position now. We have to keep working at it.

The win against Florida State was undoubtedly a quality win for their post-season resume, although it is tainted by the absence of Chris Singleton. The reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year, who is leading the team in both scoring and rebounding, broke his right foot against Virginia. Earlier this season, Singleton posted the third-ever triple-double in school history, and helped lead his squad past No. 1 Duke.

What unquestionably would help raise the Terrapins' stock would be a victory in Chapel Hill, N.C. against No. 19 North Carolina. They will have their chance to do so Sunday night at 7:45 p.m.

"A lot of people think they are playing at a top-10 level right now. It's going to be a tough game," Williams said. "They are playing for a lot of things, but we are playing for a lot of things now, too."

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