Terps' Cameron catastrophe no joke; they were just that bad

The Baltimore Sun

DURHAM, N.C. - It seems inconceivable that Maryland let the gap between itself and Duke grow this wide, without NCAA probation being involved, but it happened yesterday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Numbers don't lie - 85-44 sure doesn't, and there were a lot more numbers that tell an even more damning tale, ones that go beyond where this stands among the worst blowouts in school history, and in Gary Williams' career.

In their defense, Williams was right in saying afterward that it is only one game, that they still have 11 Atlantic Coast Conference games left to make up for it.

Still, this game unveiled some unpleasant truths about this team, this game and this season.

First: A lack of intensity and effort is not what got the Terps' heads handed to them. Williams insisted it was, the players agreed, and Greivis Vasquez went the extra step and flogged himself over his recent loss of "swagger."

Don't buy it. They were just overmatched and outplayed by a bigger, stronger, quicker, deeper team. Their hearts were in it, but the rest of their bodies weren't up to the task, and that's harder to explain away.

Speaking of Vasquez: The Scapegoat Express has made its last stop, so everybody hop off. Take yesterday as proof that whatever isn't right goes far deeper than any gesture or comment - as soon as Duke's defense took Vasquez out of Maryland's offense and made everyone else try to beat the Blue Devils, it was over. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his team knew who they had to worry about and who they didn't, and played it accordingly.

"Everybody knows who he is," Williams said of Vasquez. "We have to do a good job as a team to run offenses to make sure he gets the ball. But at the same time, you have to make shots."

None of this was going on yesterday, especially not early. By the time Vasquez got the ball in any position to do anything with it, four minutes had passed, and the Terps were behind 12-3, already sinking in a tar pit of turnovers, rushed jump shots and aborted drives at Kareem Abdul-Zoubek - er, Duke 7-footer Brian Zoubek.

Maryland scored 15 points in the first half, a nice showing if it had been facing down Dean Smith in the pre-shot-clock era. Vasquez could have played with duct tape on his mouth and curtsied after every basket, and it wouldn't have made that big a difference.

Finally: Putting aside for now the lightning rod that is Vasquez, Maryland can't afford any less than maximum effort, superior defense, opportunistic offense and precise execution just to beat the teams in its tier of the league. Forget the Dukes, North Carolinas and Wake Forests lying ahead. Its ACC games preceding this one showed how hard it is for Maryland to build and sustain efforts, and leads, all game - against anybody.

It's not for lack of trying. They're just only so good.

Duke exposed and amplified every Terps limitation, making a small team look like Hobbits and an offense-challenged team look like the pre-Cam Cameron Ravens. The Terps have to face teams at that level only a relative handful of times. Even then, they won't get clowned the way they did yesterday. (Overheard from among the Cameron Crazies early in the second half: "I can't believe I camped out five days for this.")

It is all hard to fathom. But we all had better face it. On their best, most hyped-up day, these Terps are capable of producing a stink bomb of this magnitude. They shouldn't - but they just did.

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

how bad was it?

* Worst margin of defeat at Maryland for coach Gary Williams, in his 20th season.

* Worst ACC loss and worst to Duke in the 164-game history of the series. Maryland's previous ACC low point was a 39-point loss to Wake Forest in 1963.

* Worst overall loss since 1944, when Army beat Maryland by 63.

* Fewest Maryland points in an ACC game since the introduction of the shot clock nationally in 1985.

Jeff Barker

points after

* The moving testimonials given yesterday by Gary Williams and Mike Krzyzewski after the passing of Kay Yow were a wonderful illustration of a universal fact: Great coaches respect great coaches.

* Speaking of tributes, very classy of Duke to honor the newly inaugurated president by jumping ahead of the Terps by 44.

* Good job by the Orioles keeping Nick Markakis on board and happy for the next six years - but whether he's really an $11 million-a-year player yet is another story. Could be, should be, but also had better be.

* Few players have absorbed a single hit as horrifying as either the one Willis McGahee took to his knee in college or the one he took to his head in Pittsburgh last week. Which makes it kind of hard to question McGahee's toughness.

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