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Bad shooting dooms Terps vs. UCLA UM may lose ranking, as 19-for-77 showing brings 73-63 defeat; Bruins' McCoy blocks 11; Williams mulls shuffle of lineup after 3rd loss

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — ANAHEIM, Calif. -- His most consistent shooter is the point guard. His front line can't put the ball in the Atlantic or the Pacific. And nobody appears on the verge of stepping up.

So what's Maryland coach Gary Williams to do after a gut-wrenching, 73-63 loss to UCLA before 17,330 at The Pond in the Wooden Classic yesterday?

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Consider lineup changes, that's what.

"Because we played a certain way last year doesn't mean that's the way we'll play this year," Williams said after emerging from a 15-minute, closed-door session with his Terps, who are certain to drop out of the Top 25 this week with a 3-3 record.

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"We have the next three weeks to look at what our best lineup is. Maybe somebody would play better off the bench. [But] keep things in perspective. We lost to Kentucky, UMass and these guys. It's not like we're bad. We're just not doing some things like shooting the ball very well. We've got to find a way to shoot the ball better."

Poor shooting is a fatal flaw when it comes to basketball, of course, and the Terps were undeniably flawed against UCLA. They attacked the boards for 28 offensive rebounds, pressed the Bruins (3-3) into a ragged 29 turnovers, and negated all that with a 19-for-77 shooting performance.

Even layups became a chore. Williams counted 10 missed layups in the first half alone. So it wasn't surprising that the Terps missed 16 of 21 three-point shots, either.

"Part of it is my responsibility," Williams said. "We had three assists today, and that doesn't make me feel very good."

On a stat sheet filled with wondrous numbers -- like Jelani McCoy's Pac-10 record 11 blocked shots -- perhaps the most revealing was the 4-for-31 shooting effort by Maryland's starting front line of Exree Hipp, Keith Booth and first-time starter Obinna Ekezie. And that doesn't count the 1-for-5 shooting of Mario Lucas, who played only nine minutes as a reserve because of a sprained right ankle.

Except for Rodney Elliott (5-for-8, 13 points, seven rebounds), that front line was woeful with the ball. Elliott, a sophomore, even may have played his way into the starting lineup.

Having lost to the three heavyweights on his schedule, Williams will spend the next three weeks before the Atlantic Coast Conference season opens re-evaluating his rotation.

There are several possibilities, including the removal of Hipp, a senior who has started 98 consecutive games at Maryland, and Lucas from the starting unit. There is also a possible shift of Duane Simpkins from point to shooting guard.

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"We'll work the next three weeks developing the rotation," Williams said. "It's not the [starting] five, it's the eight or nine [in the rotation]. I've got to get a better look at Matt [Kovarik] and Sarunas [Jasikevicius]. I want to see how Rodney and Keith are in there together.

"We could go real small with Rodney and Keith, Laron [Profit] or Ex, Johnny [Rhodes] and Duane. We've got to find out who makes us a better team. There's always a fine line between being pretty good and average."

Hipp is mired in the worst shooting slump of his career. He was three-for-13 against UCLA and is shooting 33 percent for the season. Booth was 1-for-12 -- his shots caromed hard off the glass -- and is shooting 29 percent after six games.

Even Rhodes, the team's leading scorer, is slumping. He hit just three of 15 shots (for eight points) to run his total for the past two games to 9-for-27. Simpkins had to carry most of the scoring burden in Rhodes' absence, and he delivered 21 points, hitting six of 12. But he had just two assists with nine turnovers, grim testimony that the burden may be too heavy.

Williams put freshman Terrell Stokes on the floor with Simpkins, a pairing that could figure big in the future. Stokes played 10 minutes with two steals and two rebounds, but didn't score. Giving Stokes more minutes would supply Simpkins, the team's most consistent shooter at 47 percent, with more scoring opportunities in a three-guard set that includes Rhodes.

"I told Duane when we recruited Terrell last year, 'Don't be surprised if you're on the court the same time,' " Williams said. "That gives us great ball-handling, good defense, and the only way we get hurt is if they try to post us up [with the backcourt]."

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Simpkins agonized over his nine-turnover game.

"I'd just say I have a tendency to have dumb turnovers," he said.

"I wouldn't mind it [a move to shooting guard]. But I've still got too do a better job protecting the ball. It's as simple as that."

And one lineup or another, the Terps have to do a better job shooting the ball.


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