TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- There was no safety net to catch Maryland's tumbling Terrapins yesterday at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.
There was only rock-bottom.
And Maryland found it with a thud.
Plunging to season lows on defense, and unable to generate any serious offense, the Terps endured a 100-78 humiliation against a Florida State team that had been reeling with five straight losses.
The Tallahassee area was so underwhelmed by this Atlantic Coast Conference matchup that an intimate gathering of 4,710 showed up for the noon tipoff. Those who did were treated to a circus act, complete with aroma. Maryland, which had won three straight and six of its past seven, was among the no-shows.
"If you're not ready to play, you go down," Terps coach Gary Williams said after the debacle. "There's no rationale. Just show up and be ready to play, or you lose in this league."
So much for the emotional high the Terps (12-8, 5-5) achieved with a road win at North Carolina. From the peak of Chapel Hill, the Terps hit skid row in one easy lesson.
It was their worst defeat since a 25-point loss to Virginia in last year's regular-season finale. Florida State hadn't scored as many as 80 points in its past 22 ACC games, but became the first team in 35 games to hit 100 against Maryland.
The 100 total points and 65 in the second half by Florida State were both highs against the Terps this year.
Rock-bottom? The Seminoles (11-9, 3-7) had been beaten on the boards in eight of their previous nine ACC games, yet out-rebounded Maryland by five. They had hit 31.4 percent of their past 175 shots -- but became sharpshooters against the Terps, hitting 57.4 for the game and 70.4 in the second half.
Maryland went 7 1/2 minutes in the first half without a field goal against Florida State's 2-3 zone, and nearly four minutes in the second without one. If not for Johnny Rhodes' second-half binge -- 11 straight Terps points and 15 of 18 at one juncture -- it could have been a 30-point spread.
"We came out flat," said Rhodes, who finished with 20 points. "We weren't hitting shots we normally make and everybody was out of sync. That really gave them confidence and they continued to play well."
The Terps fell behind 35-28 in the first half with just six field goals, and only one of those was close to the basket. Mario Lucas (17 points) hit three three-point shots in the half, but the Terps hit little else.
"We weren't running good offense," Williams said. "We wouldn't work hard enough to get inside shots."
Keith Booth scored 17 points for Maryland, 11 from the foul line and 13 after halftime. Point guard Duane Simpkins was 1-for-8 and had eight points, and the Terps got nothing but four fouls from freshman center Obinna Ekezie.
"Once we got behind, they kept on hitting," Simpkins said. "I think we kind of panicked a little bit, and left people open in transition."
The Seminoles, who held a three-hour team meeting Monday to clear the air, had five players score in double figures. Scott Shepherd hit for a career-high 21 points and Geoff Brower matched his career best with 17.
"It was one of the most emotional things I've been involved with," coach Pat Kennedy said of the team meeting. "That really helped turn the corner."
After Maryland ran into a brick wall, Williams reached for a silver lining -- and found one on his schedule. The Terps play four of their last six ACC games at home, as well as a key nonconference game against Missouri.
"[But] if we don't play better than we did today, it doesn't matter who we play," Williams said. "We're going to be in trouble."
He was quick to sweep away any ready-made excuses, too.
"The players can say they have excuses," he said. "That we played four out of five on the road, that we're tired. . . . We're not tired. Everybody's playing a lot of minutes."
He also discounted starting time, although the Terps' two worst games of the year -- Florida State and Wake Forest -- began at noon.
"If the players can't play at 12 o'clock, it's their fault and they know it," he said. "If that's a problem for them, they don't belong at this level, because sometimes you have to do things for TV.
"We did not play well. I'm sure in their minds, without asking them, the 12 o'clock start might be an excuse for them. If they want it, they can have it. It's not my excuse. We have no excuses, the way we played."