Upset of No. 1 Carolina just cure for Terps

COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK - The way sophomore forward Tahj Holden sees it, the struggling Maryland Terrapins can wipe out a two-week run of frustration with one great game.

That would be tomorrow's visit to Chapel Hill against top-ranked North Carolina.


Maryland (15-7, 6-4), which has lost three of its past four games and is clinging to a one-game lead as the Atlantic Coast Conference's third-place team, has not experienced a 1-4 stretch since the end of the 1996-97 season.

The Terps also need to do something they have managed only once in five attempts this season - beat a ranked opponent. Under first-year coach Matt Doherty, North Carolina (20-2) is atop the ACC with a 10-0 mark. The Tar Heels came from behind to edge Maryland, 86-83, in College Park on Jan. 10.


"There's still plenty of time for us to do what we have to do. We can still reach our goals," Holden said. "We'll figure something out, but it's got to be quick. If we win on Saturday, things will be back to normal."

Since blowing a 10-point lead in the final 54 seconds of regulation against Duke en route to a 98-96 overtime loss Jan. 27, the Terps have not looked normal. Tuesday night's 72-62 loss at Georgia Tech, Maryland's second loss to an unranked team this season, was an ideal case in point.

Maryland committed a season-high 23 turnovers, including a team-high six by senior forward Terence Morris, who has been the Terps' most productive player since the ACC schedule commenced Jan. 2.

Coming into the Georgia Tech game, taking care of the ball had been a Terrapins strength. Maryland entered Alexander Memorial Coliseum leading the ACC in assists-to-turnover ratio. Three players - point guards Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas and reserve forward Danny Miller - ranked among the league's top six in that category.

Against the Yellow Jackets, Miller and Nicholas combined for two assists and eight turnovers. The 23 team miscues doomed a Terps offense that produced a season-low 62 points.

"We seem like we come into the game with good attitudes and we're concentrating," Holden said. "Then, we tighten up on the court."

That tendency has flared up in crunch time over the past two weeks. After the Duke debacle, the Terps were outscored 45-27 over the final 13:41 of a 99-78 loss at Virginia. Georgia Tech erased an 11-point deficit early in the second half, then beat Maryland with a 12-2 run over the last 3:48.

Maryland has led at halftime in all but one game this season, and still has seven losses to show for it.


"The one thing you strive for as a coach is how to be more consistent. And the big thing as a coach is you can't ever think there's not a way to get this turned around tomorrow," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who has questioned his team's killer instinct.

"You can't be selective in the way you turn it on. You have to be hungry all of the time. As long as I've coached, very rarely has this [lack of hunger] come up. We can do something about it on Saturday. We are going to play hard on Saturday."

Maryland has not been swept by Carolina in the regular season since 1994. The Terps also have won three times in their previous five trips to the Dean E. Smith Center.

Dixon's stroke back?

About this time a year ago, Terps shooting guard Juan Dixon began an offensive tear that eventually landed him on the All-ACC team and pushed his team into a second-place finish in the conference.

Maryland could use a similar spurt from the junior from Calvert Hall. Before the Georgia Tech loss, Dixon had been mired in a shooting slump. Over a five-game stretch leading up to the latest loss, Dixon had made only four of 20 shots from three-point range, a skid that dropped him off the ACC leader list.


Dixon showed signs of rediscovering his stroke by making two of three from beyond the arc during Wednesday's 18-point effort. He made eight of 12 attempts overall.

In his previous four games, Dixon had hit only 14 of 43 shots from the field (32.6 percent).

He remains the team's leading scorer, averaging 17.7 points.

Classic replay

ESPN Classic will replay the recent Duke-Maryland game as an "Instant Classic" on Feb. 22 from 9 to 11 p.m.

The 98-96 overtime victory by the Blue Devils at Cole Field House was ESPN's highest-rated college basketball game of the season, and was the network's highest-rated regular-season game since Jan. 27, 1999. It also was the 11th most watched regular-season men's college basketball game on ESPN since 1990.


ESPN Classic will rebroadcast the game again on Feb. 23 at 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.