A day before playing Towson State at Cole Field House, Gary Williams said he knew that his 11th-ranked Terrapins could have beaten the fifth-ranked Minutemen.
"If you out-rebound UMass and get both Lou Roe and Marcus Camby in foul trouble, you should win the ballgame," Williams said yesterday. "But we didn't shoot at all.
"We've been shooting well all year and that's just one game. But at the same time, it's a big game and those shots are tougher in a big game."
After shooting 55.5 percent from the field -- and over 50 percent in its first seven games -- Maryland hit 23 of 63 from the field. After making 74 percent of their free throws going in, the Terps made 27 of 44.
As a result, Maryland lost to Massachusetts, 85-74, wasting a 30-point performance by sophomore All-American Joe Smith and come back in which the Terps, trailing by 10 in the first half, took a one-point lead with less than five minutes left.
Instead of going into tonight's 8 o'clock game with Towson State (3-2) with the idea of trying to build its winning streak to six games, Maryland (6-2) instead will be looking to start a new one. Williams, for one, can't wait for his team to get back onto the court.
"I'd hate to go into exams with the UMass game still on our minds," said Williams, whose Terps will have an 10-day break between games after tonight. "We'll address the UMass game after exams. We'll use a lot of the things we did as a training tool for the ACC."
Williams won't second-guess his decision to schedule teams such as Bucknell, UMBC and Colgate before playing Massachusetts -- something ABC's Dick Vitale did Saturday in pointing to the Minutemen's arduous early schedule against Arkansas and Kansas.
"When we scheduled Colgate, they had signed [Adonal] Foyle, so you expect to see a look similar to the one Camby gives you," said Williams. "I thought Foyle would give us that look, but he didn't. And you don't think you're going to win by 60."
But Williams said that playing a weaker opponent doesn't
prepare a team when it drastically steps up the competition. It was evident not only in Maryland's offensive breakdowns, but also in its defensive lapses shutting down Massachusetts' perimeter players.
"We have to be able to do what we do against the Colgates when we play teams like UMass," said Williams.
The Terps won't get that chance again for a while. Their next game against a ranked opponent won't come until next month, either when they open the Atlantic Coast Conference season Jan. 4 at home against Georgia Tech, or three days later at North Carolina.
Maryland has four more games until then, starting tonight. The players also say that getting back on the court so quickly after such a disheartening defeat is the best way to put it behind them.
"We've still got a long season ahead," said sophomore forward Keith Booth, who failed to score a single field goal for the second time in three games against the Minutemen and Donta Bright, his first cousin and former Dunbar teammate. "We still have a good team.
Said Smith, whose 10-for-18 shooting included the team's only successful three-pointer in 14 attempts: "It's good that we're playing so soon after the loss. You want to get to the next game as fast as you can."
Towson State coach Terry Truax said recently that he wanted to see Maryland win Saturday for two reasons: He's an alumnus and a realist, and he knows the Terps would have been easier to BTC catch if they had beaten Massachusetts.
"For us to have a chance, Maryland will have to contribute a little," Truax said yesterday.