Not so fast, everyone. Rumors of the Terrapins' demise on a tough two-game road swing now seem greatly exaggerated.
After the clunker at Clemson, Maryland got off to a slow start but then got humming at both ends of the court to score a key 71-67 road win at Florida State on Thursday and keep pace atop the ACC standings.
Heading into an important two-game homestand, Maryland (15-6 overall, 5-2 ACC) exorcised that 62-53 loss to the Tigers and can now say it was an anomaly, rather than a trend.
The Terps' trend is that the defense-minded club has won seven of its last nine games and heads home to meet struggling North Carolina on Sunday and then hosts surprising Virginia on Wednesday. A Feb. 13 showdown at Duke could loom even larger than usual for Gary Williams' scrappy bunch.
Maryland shot 34 percent and committed a season-high 26 turnovers at
Clemson in seeing a four-game winning streak snapped. But the Terrapins claimed a third ACC road win with a solid showing at Florida State, a confidence boost for the senior-laden squad.
The College Park area is expecting as much as perhaps 20 inches of
snow this weekend, but the Terrapins have seemingly already dug themselves out heading into the important stretch of conference games.
MARYLAND 71, FLORIDA STATE 67: Greivis Vasquez scored 23 points and hit some big free throws at the end to allow Maryland to become just the second team to win on Florida State's home Tucker Center floor this season. The Terrapins bounced back from a dismal loss at Clemson to claim the big road victory. Landon Milbourne chipped in 18 points and six rebounds. Maryland got 68 points from just four players -- Vasquez, Milbourne, Jordan Williams (14 points and seven rebounds) and Eric Hayes (12 points). The Terps held their own on the boards and frustrated FSU with their stingy defense. The Seminoles could manage just 37.7 percent shooting against the smaller Terrapins.
--Despite the loss at Clemson, Maryland kept alive its streak of keeping opponents out of the 70s, then continued the streak against Florida State.
--G Greivis Vasquez, who had a string of seven consecutive games with at least 20 points from mid-December though mid-January, scored only 10 points at Clemson.
ON THE SPOT: The Seminoles were the first team to score more than 64
points against Maryland in the Terps' last six games. Over the previous five contests, Maryland foes could muster just 59.4 ppg, and the Terrapins moved to sixth in the nation in field-goal defense, yielding just 37 percent shooting on the season.
With three seniors and hustling sophomore Sean Mosley in the first five, Gary Williams returned a solid defensive core, and freshman Jordan Williams has been a quick study. He held Clemson's Trevor Booker, one of the ACC's best low-block scorers, to just 10 points on 2-of-16 shooting Sunday, and Williams' rebounding -- allowing the Terps' defense to consistently close out more defensive possessions -- has been another key.
Only one ACC team, Wake Forest, has scored more than 68 points against Maryland (in an 85-83 overtime Wake win). The Terrapins' defensive improvement this year, allowing 4.5 points less per game and dropping that field-goal defense down from 42.2 last year, is what has made Maryland more of a factor in the conference race so far. Don't look now, though, but in the next three games, the Terrapins take on the ACC's top two scoring teams, North Carolina and Duke.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Clemson played him physical tonight. He has had to deal with that before and handled it well, but he struggled tonight." -- Coach Gary Williams, on the play of Greivis Vasquez.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Maryland's winning streak ended at four games with the loss at Clemson. The 53 points the Terps scored in the loss was their lowest output of the season, eclipsing the 57 they had in a 12-point loss to Cincinnati in November in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. The Terps are 4-2 in the ACC (1-2 on the road) and 14-6 overall.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Landon Milbourne, F Jordan Williams, G Eric Hayes, G Sean Mosley, G Greivis Vasquez. Key Subs -- F Dino Gregory, F James Padgett, G/F Cliff Tucker, G Adrian Bowie.
Maryland 88, North Carolina State 64
Maryland 81, Miami 59
Clemson 62, Maryland 53
Maryland 71, Florida State 67
vs. North Carolina, Sunday, Feb. 7
vs. Virginia, Wednesday, Feb. 10
at Duke, Saturday, Feb. 13
at North Carolina State, Wednesday, Feb. 17
IN FOCUS: The Terrapins are catching North Carolina at exactly the right time. Maryland desperately needs to keep winning at home.
--Senior forward Landon Milbourne, who was 1-for-8 from the field and finished with a season-low three points at Clemson, bounced back big at Florida State. He had seven of the Terps' first 11 points and finished with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, using his quickness on the perimeter to negate the Seminoles' size advantage.
--Freshman center Jordan Williams continued his solid play with 14 points and six rebounds at FSU. Over the last five games, Williams is averaging 11.4 points and 8.8 rebounds, and has hit 24 of his 39 shots (.615). He is the ACC's reigning Rookie of the Week.
--The bench, so much a part of Maryland's recent four-game winning streak, contributed just three points in the win at Florida State. James Padgett had a free throw and then Dino Gregory hit two more with 2:21 left to put the Terps ahead by two. Gregory, though, also had perhaps the game's biggest play. The junior forward drew a charge on Michael Snaer with 14.5 seconds left that waved off a tying basket.
--Bud Millikan, who coached at Maryland for 17 seasons through the '50s and '60s, recently passed away. Millikan was 243-182 at Maryland, winning the 1958 ACC crown and reaching the Elite Eight that season.
Millikan was Gary Williams' college coach and also groomed several other head coaches.