COLLEGE PARK - Review Maryland's shooting statistics this season and you will spot a striking inconsistency.
The Terrapins are one of the nation's best free-throw-shooting teams. Maryland was shooting 78.8 percent from the line entering Saturday's Florida State game. That was the Atlantic Coast Conference's top percentage and sixth best in the nation.
But Maryland ranked 238th out of 330 teams in field-goal percentage at 41.9 percent. The Terps have particularly struggled from beyond the three-point line, missing 26 of 27 attempts in one stretch and shooting 31.6 percent overall.
The Terps were summoned to Comcast Center yesterday morning for an unscheduled shoot-around.
"I don't think it's good for players to lay around all day, and today's a holiday," coach Gary Williams said.
But Williams had additional motivation for calling the session on Martin Luther King Day. He knows it's critical for his team to get its shooting stroke - and confidence - restored as Maryland (12-5, 1-2 ACC) tries to avoid a third straight ACC loss, with Virginia (7-7, 1-2 ACC) coming to town tonight.
All things are contagious on a basketball court - especially shooting. Williams said poor shooting from beyond the arc has fed on itself. That never seemed so apparent as when Maryland missed 26 of 27 three-point shots spanning the Morgan State loss and most of the first half of the Georgia Tech win Jan. 10.
The Terps seemed edgy from behind the line, frequently eliciting groans from the home crowd after misses because the shooters were so open.
"We're still getting good looks from the field," Williams said. "I think we just need to get hot for a period of time and we'll be fine."
Dave Neal agreed. The senior forward said it would be a mistake to be tentative since three-point shooting remains part of Maryland's philosophy.
"We've been kind of cold from behind the three-point shooting line," Neal said. "We've just got to keep shooting."
Among starters, guard Eric Hayes has been Maryland's highest-percentage shooter beyond the arc at 38 percent. He's followed by Neal at 34 percent and Greivis Vasquez at 31 percent.
In its three ACC games, Maryland has gotten worse - 17 of 66 (26 percent).
It's been a happier story at the foul line. Last year, Maryland shot 70.3 percent from the line, which was lower than its opponents' percentage of 74.0.
This season, Vasquez is at 91.5 percent and made 35 in a row before missing in Saturday's overtime loss to Florida State. Hayes is at 89.3 percent. Landon Milbourne, who entered the season at 75.6 percent, is shooting 82.2 percent.
"Free-throw shooting is developing confidence in your ability to do it. It's been compared a lot to putting if you play golf," Williams said. "We've made them for the most part when we've had to this year."
@MARYLAND (12-5, 1-2)
TV: Chs. 54, 20
Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM
Line: Terps by 9 1/2