BB&T Classic Continues to Haunt Maryland

Following Wednesday's win over Illinois, Maryland forward James Gist said the hardest thing for the team would be to move forward and concentrate on Virginia Commonwealth. The highs and lows of a season had to be balanced, Gist said, and he was afraid this inexperienced team would get too high and lose focus.

His fears held true—Maryland's mental lapses in handling VCU's constant pressure led to costly turnovers. Questionable shot selection and spotty defense didn't help the Terps' cause either. It amounted to another loss in the BB&T Classic--85-76 to the upstart Rams of the Colonial Athletic Association.

"I think our biggest weakness is getting ready to play. We're not ready to play from the jump," Greivis Vasquez said. "We let teams get confidence. We're playing for Maryland, we're not playing for no mid-major school. We're playing for a team that won the national championship and won the ACC tournament. I guess we don't understand that."

Maryland coach Gary Williams has questioned the team's energy in several games this season, and did so again after the game. But unlike in past games, the lack of energy resulted in poor defense. VCU (4-3) shot 47.3 percent from the floor and the Terps (5-3) were unable to contain its two leading scorers, Jamal Shuler and Eric Maynor.

Shuler, who averaged 14.3 points per game coming in, scored 19 in the first half on his way to a game-high 30 points. Maynor, who rose to fame for hitting the game-winning shot against Duke in last year's NCAA tournament, finished with 25 points—23 of which came in the second half.

Even though the Rams have shown they are capable of playing with the country's elite teams, they still have the label of mid-major. They're not Duke or North Carolina, and Williams said it has yet to hit his young team that it has to bring its ‘A' game every time.

"Hopefully we learned that you can't relax nowadays in college basketball," Williams said. "The one think about experience is you understand that in any situation you have to be ready to play."

In particular, it seemed that the Terps weren't ready for VCU's full-court press, the likes of which few teams on the college level employ. It forced Maryland into 19 turnovers, which, in comparison to the Terps' other games this year, isn't bad, but still far too many.

"Nobody plays like that in the ACC," Williams said. "Commonwealth presses very well, they do a great job. They have great pressure. Their quickness I think bothered us as much as anything. They were able to get to some balls that we couldn't get to."

Maryland has now lost five of its last six games in the BB&T, and the chants of the opponent's fans echoing throughout the Verizon Center as the final seconds wound down have become all too familiar.

"It's plagued me for four years now," said James Gist, who shot just 3-for-11 from the floor and finished with 9 points.

"We got to get the win before I graduate. We don't get nothing in the place. It's tough. It's a nightmare when you come over here," Vasquez said.

More disconcerting for Williams, however, is the recurring mistakes. The season is only eight games old, but the margin for error in out of conference play becomes slim. Maryland faces a tough Morgan State team on Thursday, and it will be another test to see if the team has taken anything from its past games.

"There's some things we have to learn on the move this year and hopefully you don't have to learn them in two games, you just learn them from one game," Williams said. "We've got a lot of things to learn from tonight's game."


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