As a result of opening the season with seven consecutive wins en route to a 9-2 overall record and a 3-1 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 6 Maryland has not had to worry too much about its postseason fate. That level of comfort, however, could be detrimental to the Terps.
They have split their last four games, a stretch capped by Saturday’s 11-6 loss to No. 5 Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays (8-3) collected a victory that they sorely needed to avoid repeating last year’s absence from the NCAA tournament, and Maryland coach John Tillman said his players could not match the intensity and effort put forth by Johns Hopkins.
“They were well aware of our opponent needing a quality win or they ran the risk of being on the outside potentially of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year,” Tillman said during his weekly conference call on Tuesday morning. “Usually, your older players say, ‘It’s late in the year and time is short, and the energy and intensity that you’re going to bring at that point is going to be pretty important.’ I think like any team that’s in that spot, you just have to know that at this time of the year, most teams are going to play that way, and I think it’s something that our players really need to understand.”
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The silver lining for the Terps is that they still have a shot at sharing the ACC regular-season championship and grabbing the top seed in the conference tournament on April 25 and 27 if they can dispose of No. 9 Notre Dame (6-4, 2-2) on Saturday.
No matter the outcome, both teams will meet in one semifinal at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. But Tillman said there are no plans to unveiling a vanilla game plan and saving some different schemes for the ACC tournament.
“I think if you get an opportunity to play, you’ve just got to go out and play and give it your best shot,” he said. “I’ve heard that from a few different people, but I think you have to go out there with the intention of, ‘Hey, it’s the next game. We’ve got to try to win this game.’ I think we’re in a very similar situation as last week. They’re a team that really wants this game, and we’ve read some things. Obviously, they’re going to be excited about it and it’s a league game. That’s a team that’s going to come with a lot of intensity. I think that’s something you always try to balance with our team and really try to focus mostly on us. But our kids also need to understand their strengths and the personnel of the other team.”