Terps fal­ter late in loss at Vil­lanova

Sec­ond-half drought costly in 74-66 loss to No. 7 Wild­cats

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY LIZ CLARKE

philadel­phia — With a 12-point lead and less than 10 min­utes to play, Mary­land stood poised Satur­day to top­ple its first ranked op­po­nent of the sea­son and prove that it’s a far bet­ter team than its record sug­gests.

But the sig­na­ture vic­tory the Ter­rap­ins so desperately needed to boost their NCAA tour­na­ment re­sume never ma­te­ri­al­ized against No. 7 Vil­lanova, which par­layed a vet­eran back court and the pas­sion of a par­ti­san home crowd into a 74-66 vic­tory.

Led by se­nior guard Corey Fisher’s shoot­ing down the stretch, Vil­lanova (16-1) scored 19 unan­swered points to erase the Ter­rap­ins’ lead and, with it, any no­tion of a come­back.

As has been the case all sea­son, Mary­land’s for­tunes rose and fell with sopho­more cen­ter Jor­dan Wil­liams, who led all play­ers with 25 points and 14 re­bounds, ex­tend­ing his con­sec­u­tive streak of dou­ble-dou­bles to 11 games. But when Wil­liams went more than five min­utes with­out tak­ing a shot in the sec­ond half, the Ter­rap­ins suf­fered might­ily, fail­ing to score a sin­gle point dur­ing a 7-minute 14-sec­ond stretch.

The pro­longed drought was both a tes­ta­ment to Vil­lanova’s abil­ity to clamp down on de­fense and a state­ment about Mary­land’s limited scor­ing op­tions: Dur­ing those rare stretches when Wil­liams doesn’t play up to par or is stymied by op­pos­ing de­fenses, Mary­land (11-6) strug­gles to keep pace with its op­po­nents.

Though the Ter­rap­ins are im­prov­ing, they have yet to pro­duce a clutch shooter, and poor free throw shoot­ing con­tin­ues to un­der­mine their ef­forts (they were 10 of 18 from the foul line on Satur­day). And it­may take an­other sea­son or­more­be­fore Coach Gary Wil­liams de­vel­ops a back court with the savvy of Vil­lanova’s.

That’s what set Mary­land apart last

sea­son, with se­niors Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes lead­ing the Ter­rap­ins to a share of the ACC reg­u­lar sea­son ti­tle and a run to the sec­ond round of the NCAA tour­na­ment.

Satur­day’s de­feat was Mary­land’s fifth to a ranked team this sea­son (fol­low­ing losses to Pitts­burgh, Illi­nois, Tem­ple and Duke). With each loss (all by sin­gle dig­its), the mag­ni­tude of the loss of Vasquez and Hayes be­comes clearer.

Still, Coach Gary Wil­liams re­fused to in­dulge inthe lan­guage of despair Satur­day, say­ing at the out­set that he was pleased with his play­ers’ ef­fort in their third road game this week.

“We had to re­ally dig deep to play to­day,” Wil­liams said. “We played at a good level for about 33 min­utes. But you know Vil­lanova is not go­ing to go away. You have to make shots when the other team gets hot.

“We still have a chance to have a good year in our league,” Wil­liams added. “We have to do it for 40 min­utes rather than 33.”

De­spite Jor­dan Wil­liams’s dom­i­nance in the paint, it was a game that un­der­scored the value of vet­eran guards. And Vil­lanova, which ex­tended its win­ning streak to 11 with the vic­tory, is rich in that re­gard, with Fisher, Maa­lik Wayns and Corey Stokes com­bin­ing for 48 points.

Apart from Jor­dan Wil­liams, the only Ter­rap­ins to score in dou­ble fig­ures were se­niors Dino Gre­gory and Adrian Bowie, with 10 points each.

“We all be­lieved we could win this,” Gre­gory said. “We just had a mental break­down. Didn’t make plays we should have made. Threw bad passes. Didn’t re­bound.”

Wil­liams hit Mary­land’s first three shots while clamp­ing down on Vil­lanova big man Mouph­taou Yarou, who missed all six of his field-goal at­tempts and scored just three points.

Fresh­man Pe’Shon Howard (four points, three as­sists and three turnovers) hit a three-point ter­rap­ins er to put Mary­land ahead, 33-31, with 3:44 to play in the first half. Wil­liams then hit 3 of 4 free throws to pad the Ter­rap­ins’ lead to 36-33 at the break.

Vil­lanova Coach Jay Wright used half­time to fo­cus at­ten­tion on Wil­liams, who was sim­ply over­pow­er­ing in the first 20 min­utes.

“Look, this guy is sin­gle-hand­edly killing us!” Wright said, point­ing to Wil­liams’s 16 points and nine re­bounds in the pe­riod — nearly half the Ter­rap­ins’ to­tals in both cat­e­gories.

Nonethe­less, Mary­land opened the sec­ond half with an 8-2 run, and with 9:29 re­main­ing, Mary­land led, 59-47.

But it un­rav­eled quickly. Vil­lanova bat­tled for ev­ery pos­ses­sion, in­ter­cepted care­less passes, at­tacked the boards (fin­ish­ing with a 43-33 re­bound­ing ad­van­tage) and fed the ball to Wayns (22 points) and Fisher (17).

Wil­liams fi­nally snapped Mary­land’s scor­ing drought with a layup with 2:13 re­main­ing, cut­ting the Wild­cats’ lead to five, and Bowie fol­lowed with a layup of his own on the Ter­rap­ins’ next pos­ses­sion to make it a three-point game. But Wayns’s three-pointer with 1:10 left ex­tin­guished Mary­land’s hopes for good.

BAR­BARA JOHNSTON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Adrian Bowie (10 points) drives for Mary­land, which led by 12 be­fore Vil­lanova went on a 19-0 run.

BAR­BARA JOHNSTON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vil­lanova’s Corey Fisher (17 points) drives around Mary­land's Jor­dan Wil­liams (25 points, 14 re­bounds).

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