Closer Look: Maryland

Ouch, that's going to leave a mark. Maryland lost by nine points or less for the eighth time this season Tuesday at Virginia Tech, and the RPI-challenged Terrapins now seem a longer shot than ever to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year.

Needing two wins against two teams that beat them on their home court earlier this year, the Terps (16-10 overall, 4-5 in the ACC) went oh-for, falling 76-72 at Boston College on Saturday and 91-83 at Virginia Tech on Wednesday.

Maryland led much of the second half but couldn't close the deal late against the Hokies in a way too familiar scenario. Coach Gary Williams said all the team can do is focus on the next game, and that would be Sunday against N.C. State, the beginning of a two-game homestand that includes Florida State on Feb. 23.

"We have two home games coming up now and a chance to go over .500 (in the ACC), and that's our goal," said Williams. "To go over (.500) and go from there and see what happens."

Maryland was 89th in the RPI before the Tech game, and the close losses to tough teams don't seem to be helping the Terrapins move up. They need some victories and some momentum heading into an increasingly important -- for them -- ACC Tournament.

"I don't think the NCAA Tournament is out of the picture right now," said senior forward Dino Gregory. "We've got a good team and we've got a couple of games left. We're all working hard to get these wins and get to the tournament."

Counting NIT appearances, Maryland has been to 17 consecutive postseason tournaments, including the streak of 11 NCAA appearances from 1994 to 2004.

Virginia Tech roared to an early 10-point lead, but coach Gary Williams put the Terps in a 1-2-2 zone that his team has employed recently with more frequency. The size and ball-hawking ability of Sean Mosley, Pe'Shon Howard and Haukur Palsson makes the defense effective.

Maryland roared back to take a lead into halftime. Williams, a staunch man-to-man disciple, has had to resort to several tricks to keep his undersized and perhaps under-talented team in the hunt in the ACC.

Look for more from the impressive senior trio of Howard, Palsson and Terrell Stoglin down the stretch. The zone helps their learning curve defensively, and all three seem to have the offense down.

--Despite the 5-5 ACC record this season through Feb. 13, Maryland had 120 league victories since 1999, tied for second in that span with North Carolina. Duke was on top of the list.

--Hitting .652 from the free-throw line on the season through Feb. 13, Maryland moved out of the ACC statistical cellar in that category. The Terps passed North Carolina (.650).

--At the Feb. 20 game with North Carolina State, former ACC Player of the Year and current Memphis Grizzly Greivis Vasquez will have his jersey hung from the rafters in Comcast Center.

He will be the 17th Terrapin so honored.

BY THE NUMBERS: 665 -- Gary Williams' career victory total in 32 years, through Feb. 13. He passed John Wooden for 22nd on the all-time victory list in Division I basketball with the 106-52 win over Longwood on Feb. 9.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The obvious thing is that this is their last chance that they get to play. Hopefully they show that by how they play. It's not about having a team meeting or anything. It's about going out there and they have to be the leaders in terms of energy. Not just in the games but at practices this time of year. We have (six) league games left. It has to be every day now. There is no time to be tired. There are no excuses to be made." -- Coach Gary Williams, on his seniors.

--at North Carolina State, Feb. 20
It's Maryland's first and only meeting with the young Wolfpack. N.C. State dropped to 1-7 on the road with a 76-52 loss at Duke last week, but Maryland hasn't defended its home court, posting just a 2-3 conference home mark.

FUTURES MARKET: The freshman guard tandem of Pe'Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin combined for 28 points, 10 assists, 10-of-17 shooting and just four assists at Boston College on Feb. 12 as some of Maryland's veterans on the perimeter struggled. Howard (14 points, 4-of-5 3-point shooting) has moved in as the starting point guard, but a strong case can be made that recently, the Terrapins' best offensive lineup has Howard and Stoglin (14 points, 5-of-7 shooting, seven assists) playing together.

Howard is bigger and more athletic, but Stoglin is quicker with the ball. If they're up to the job defensively, the future may be now in the Maryland backcourt down the stretch this season.

--Freshman G Terrell Stoglin pumped in a career-high 25 points against Virginia Tech, keeping the Terrapins in the contest. He also added six assists. Maryland's bench had a 38-3 scoring edge over Tech's subs. Stoglin's previous career high was 18 points against UNC Greensboro.

--Senior F Dino Gregory's 8.4 ppg average is double his previous career best, set last year (4.2). In the last eight games, Gregory has chipped in 10.4 points and 7.1 rebounds, in part thanks to all the attention sophomore center Jordan Williams draws.

--Senior G Cliff Tucker, who was scoreless at Boston College, bounced back with 10 points off the bench against Virginia Tech. Tucker was hitting .407 from 3-point range in his previous 14 games but was just 1-of-6 behind the arc at Tech.

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