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Terps fall short vs. GW, 101-92


WASHINGTON - The bad memories surfaced everywhere for Maryland, from missed free throws to breakdowns in transition and perimeter defense to inconsistency in half-court offense.

Another gritty effort by the Terrapins was ruined yesterday because of some of the same shortcomings that nearly derailed the team last season.

Unranked George Washington completed a breakthrough weekend, besting the 12th-ranked Terps, 101-92, in a thrilling BB&T; Classic final before 13,343 at MCI Center.

"It truly was a terrific basketball game," said George Washington coach Karl Hobbs, whose team also beat 11th-ranked Michigan State on Saturday en route to its third BB&T; Classic title and first since 1999. "I just wish I could have been sitting in the stands so I could have enjoyed it."

Even without shooting woes from the free-throw and three-point lines, Maryland (4-2) had enough problems with the Colonials (5-1), who were paced by tournament Most Valuable Player T.J. Thompson (27 points) and who succeeded in playing at the frenetic pace that the Terps crave.

But as good as the Colonials were yesterday - and they answered every Maryland run with a timely shot or a defensive stand - the Terps' fate could have been a bit different. They had six scorers in double digits and shot nearly 51 percent from the field.

However, Maryland, which entered the tournament as the top free-throw-shooting team in the Atlantic Coast Conference (75 percent) shot just 14 of 28 from the foul line.

The Terps also hit just six of 23 three-pointers, while its opponent made 10 of 14 from beyond the three-point line and 17 of 24 on free throws.

"We can't be a three-point-shooting team first," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We have to go inside-out with our offense. We haven't learned that yet."

After the game, Williams sounded unsure about the Terps' future in the BB&T; Classic, in which the Terps and George Washington have played every year since the tournament's inception in 1995.

"It is tough playing local teams when you are supposed to be the best team," said Williams, who wants two traditional national powers in the tournament each year. (Providence was supposed to be in this year's field before dropping out late, and George Mason took the Friars' place.) "It doesn't do us any good. ... We have to do what's best for our program. That's not being selfish.

"We have always gone out of our way to play local schools, and we'll continue to do that. But I'm not sure a tournament format with local schools works best for us."

Defensively, the Terps apparently have a lot to work on, too. The Colonials became the first team to reach 100 points on the Terps since UCLA put up 105 on them in the second round of the 2000 NCAA tournament. That was 141 games ago.

Williams said he was particularly displeased with the Terps' defensive intensity in the first half, when a series of open shots helped the Colonials shoot 59 percent.

Maryland held the Colonials' top scorer, junior forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu, to six points, but along with Thompson's 27 on 10 of 15 shooting, four other Colonials were in double figures, including J.R. Pinnock, who had 22.

"They were getting in the lane a little bit, and when they got open shots, they knocked them down," said Terps sophomore guard D.J. Strawberry, who scored 10 points. "They are a good team, and if they continue to play the way they do, they can beat anybody."

With his team trailing 55-49, Williams removed John Gilchrist with 16 minutes left in the game after one of his five turnovers. He inserted Strawberry and freshman James Gist (12 points), and the result was a 9-2 run that allowed the Terps to take their first lead - 58-57 with 14:15 to play - since 8-7.

Gist had six of those points in that spurt, including a follow-up dunk that pushed the Terps ahead. Nik Caner-Medley (16 points) accounted for the other points on a three-pointer.

Gilchrist returned six minutes later and carried the Terps down the stretch, scoring 13 of his team-high 23 points in the last 9:05, but Maryland could never get a key defensive stop.

George Washington's Omar Williams hit a three-pointer just before the shot clock expired after Maryland had cut the Colonials' lead to 83-82 with 3:56 remaining. Maryland's deficit was only three on two more occasions in the last two minutes, but the Terps never could get over the hump.

With chants of "Overrated" spreading around MCI Center, Gilchrist sprinted off the court, but not before getting a message from Pinnock. The two know each other because they both prepped in the Virginia Beach area.

"He plays with so much emotion that sometimes he can get carried away," said Pinnock, who indicated Gilchrist was "saying some stuff" to his teammates, but didn't specify. "I was just telling him that he is better than that."

Gilchrist said he was just trying to help his team win.

"There's nothing really to fix. All we have to do is want to win," said Gilchrist, who gets his next chance when the Terps return to action Sunday against North Carolina-Asheville. "That's the key to everything. Winning solves everything. ... You can't teach the desire to win."

Next for Maryland

Matchup: No. 12 Maryland (4-2) vs. North Carolina-Asheville (1-4)

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

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