Maryland is still 6-2 and, barring an unforeseen collapse, is still considered a favorite to earn an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.
But could an 11-6 loss to No. 5 North Carolina last Saturday during which the Terps squandered a 4-1 lead after the first quarter haunt the team?
“Confidence is kind of a tricky thing,” coach John Tillman said Thursday. “Giving up a lead was disappointing and how we did it was disappointing, but like any season, you’re going to go through ups and downs and you’re going to have to deal with that.”
Maryland played well in some areas (faceoffs, shots, ground balls), but also had its fair share of faults (a porous interior defense and turnovers). Tillman said he thinks the team has addressed its vulnerabilities in practice this week.
“When you deal with young people, there are a lot of teachable moments and a lot of things that can happen,” he said. “I think you have to get back to stressing the things that are important and learn from those mistakes and grow. We kind of have no choice right now. The clock’s ticking for these guys and the season’s moving on. Because of that, we’ve got to make sure we empower our kids and focus on these things to help make a difference. We don’t expect our guys to be perfect, but we expect them to have a positive attitude and at least try to do the right things. And I think these guys will respond.”
Tillman will see the fruits of the team’s labor on Saturday when the No. 9 Terps visit No. 7 Virginia (7-2). Like Maryland, the Cavaliers are also seeking to rebound from a disappointing loss, a 12-11 setback to No. 6 Johns Hopkins.
“It’s a league game, so I know they’ll be excited to play after losing,” Tillman said. “It makes you look in the mirror a little bit as an opportunity to improve and grow. So my expectation is that they’ll come back and be ready and they’ll be excited. I think we need to do the same.”