As frustrating as a loss can be, coaches often like to say how it can be a learning experience for their teams.
Count John Tillman as one who would have preferred trying to improve Maryland after a win rather than Saturday’s 11-8 loss to Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina.
“I think knowing that you have a conference and are trying to win your conference, losses are losses,” the Terps coach said during his weekly conference call on Tuesday morning. “What you would hope is that you could still win games and learn from that. I think at the end of the day, it’s hard to accept losses because you always feel like you can do better. I’d certainly want to give Carolina credit. I guess our approach is always going to be to try to learn from every game and every practice – win or lose. We’ve just got to take our medicine right now and re-evaluate some things. Are we doing things the right way? Where can we improve? I think most coaches would tell you that there are a lot of things we can get better at. There are some fundamental things that we need to improve upon. But this team has done a good job so far. This is our first chance to deal with coming off a loss, and how we respond will really say a lot about this group. I’m confident that the senior leadership will be really good, and even the juniors as well, and they’ll get us back on track.”
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Maryland won its first seven games of the season, which included convincing victories over ACC foes Syracuse and Duke, before the loss to the Tar Heels, an outcome that dropped the Terps from the top of the rankings to No. 7.
Until Saturday, they seemed to be a nice blend of offensive firepower and defensive stinginess as they are just one of three teams in Division I that rank in the top five in defense and top 15 in offense. (No. 1 Loyola and No. 6 North Carolina are the others.)
Maryland has benefited from a burst of energy from a heralded freshman class and a degree of calm from a core of veterans, and Tillman said that group has helped allay any worries by the coaching staff about the team’s mental and emotional state as it prepares for Sunday’s home game against No. 8 Virginia (8-2 overall and 1-1 in the ACC).
“This group has been pretty grounded all along,” he said. “I think given some of the new parts we have, our team has done a pretty decent job so far. I think stepping back, when you do lose sometimes, you have a sense of maybe overreacting and then sometimes when you win, maybe you’re not critical enough. We’ve tried to be consistent with what we’ve done after every game. When you play a lot of good teams, they’re going to expose some weaknesses or show you where you can improve. So we’re going to get back at it today and really try to figure out how to get better.”