NEW YORK – With his team leading Maryland by as many as 12 points late in the second half Friday, Illinois coach Bruce Weber gathered the Illini in a huddle and made sure they understood one thing.
"They are not going to quit," Weber said. "It's coach [Gary] Williams. It's how he is. It's how he coaches. They are not going to quit."
Sure enough, unranked Maryland pulled within two points in the final minute before a pair of free throws by Brandon Paul secured an 80-76 win for No. 13 Illinois. The previous night Maryland was tied with No. 5 Pittsburgh midway through the second half. The Terrapins eventually lost 79-70 at Madison Square Garden.
"Even with two losses, we still took some positives out of it," sophomore Jordan Williams said of the 2K Sports Classic. "We definitely got stronger. We got closer as a team."
Indeed, Maryland (3-2) may not be ready to challenge Duke for a conference title, but this year's Terrapins squad hardly appears to be the second-tier ACC team that so many people expected.
Credit for that should go to Williams, whose team lost three players (Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes) who combined to average 43.6 points in 2009-10. Still, despite the departures, Williams has the Terrapins playing with a poise and cohesion that is rare for young team this early in the season.
"I'm really proud of the team," Williams said after Friday's loss to Illinois. "Both nights here we could've folded. We didn't. We've got some new parts we're trying to get in there and we're trying to find a good rotation. I found out some things I couldn't have found out in practice."
Maryland's best player is Jordan Williams, a 6-foot-10, 260-pound forward who is averaging 18.4 points and 12.4 rebounds. Another sophomore, James Padgett, is a key contributor off the bench along with freshmen guards Pe'Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin.
"They'll make mistakes," coach Williams said, "but in terms of their effort, when you go against juniors and seniors and you're a freshman, that's when you show whether you have the toughness to play and can step up to the pace of college basketball as opposed to high school basketball.
"I don't know how well they'll play, but in terms of their effort and not being intimidated when they walk on the court, I feel good about our freshmen."
Seniors Adrian Bowie, Dino Gregory and Cliff Tucker are in the starting lineup along with Sean Mosley, a junior, and Jordan Williams. Mosley, who averaged 10.1 points last season, is Maryland's leading returning scorer.
"We're right there," Mosley said as he left Madison Square Garden. "We've just got to keep fighting."
(Last week's ranking in parenthesis)
1. Duke (3-0) – Monday's game against pesky Marquette won't be easy. (1)
2. North Carolina (2-2) – Things didn't go well in Puerto Rico, but this is still the second-best team in a mediocre league. (2)
3. Florida State (4-0) – The Seminoles look good – but they haven't been tested. (5)
4. Virginia Tech (2-1) – Seth Greenberg's squad shoots just 38 percent from the field. (3)
5. North Carolina State (3-1) – Rebounding will be an issue without Tracy Smith. (4)
6. Maryland (3-2) – Jordan Williams is one of the nation's top up-and-comers. (7)
7. Clemson (3-1) – Devin Booker (Trevor's younger brother) is averaging 11 points. (6)
8. Georgia Tech (3-1) – The Yellow Jackets play Tim Floyd's Texas-El Paso team on Friday. (11)
9. Miami (2-2) – It was a bad, bad week for the Hurricanes. (8)
10. Virginia (2-1) – It's not a good sign when you lose to Stanford by 21 points. (10)
11. Boston College (1-1) – The Eagles have already lost to Yale. Is Holy Cross next on Monday? (9)
12. Wake Forest (2-2) – At least there is hope for the future. (12)
Travis McKie, Wake Forest – A 6-foot-7 freshman forward, McKie has scored in double figures in each of the Demon Deacons' four games. His 22-point, 15-rebound effort against Elon on Saturday propelled Wake Forest to a much-needed 89-70 victory.
North Carolina State freshmen – The Wolfpack's heralded 2010 recruiting class is living up to its hype, as three of N.C. State's top four scorers are freshmen. Ryan Harrow is averaging 13.7 points while Lorenzo Brown (13) and C.J. Leslie (12) are also scoring in double figures.
Duke's upcoming schedule – Even during ACC play, the Blue Devils may not face tests as stiff as the ones they'll encounter in the next few weeks. Duke plays Marquette in the first round of the CBE Classic in Kansas City on Monday and will take on either No. 3 Kansas State or No. 11 Gonzaga on Tuesday. There are also fast-approaching games against second-ranked Michigan State (Dec. 1) and No. 18 Butler (Dec. 4).
Chris Singleton, Florida State – Although he's tallied them against inferior opponents, Singleton's gaudy statistics are hard to ignore. The 6-9 junior is averaging 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds and has posted double-doubles in three of the Seminoles' four games. His most impressive outing was a 30-point, 12-rebound effort against Gardner-Webb.
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech – Delaney is averaging 21.6 points and has made 25-of-26 free-throw attempts. But he's been way too careless with the ball. The senior All-American candidate has committed nine turnovers in each of his last two contests (against Kansas State and UNC-Greensboro).
Miami – Frank Haith's job status may be shaky following Sunday's 61-45 loss at Rutgers. Or at least it should be. While well-coached, the Scarlet Knights are one of the least-talented teams in the Big East and are grossly undersized in the paint. There's no excuse for a team featuring players such as Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant to shoot 29 percent and lose that game by nearly 20 points.
Ugly defeats – Miami isn't the only ACC school to suffer an embarrassing upset. Georgia Tech lost to Kennesaw State, Yale beat Boston College and Wake Forest was whipped by both Stetson and Virginia Commonwealth. The head-turning setbacks didn't exactly enhance the league's already-dwindling reputation.
Harrison Barnes – The pressure that comes with being the first freshman ever to be named first-team preseason All-American may have gotten to Barnes, who missed all 12 of his field-goal attempts in North Carolina's upset loss to Minnesota in Puerto Rico. After the game North Carolina coach Roy Williams expressed displeasure about the hype surrounding Barnes and the pressure it puts on the freshman. He followed that up with a 4-for-12 shooting night in a loss to Vanderbilt.
Former ACC stars David Thompson (N.C. State) and Christian Laettner (Duke) were inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Kansas City … North Carolina State forward Tracy Smith – who is regarded as one of the top players in the ACC – is out for at least three weeks because of a left knee injury suffered in Thursday's win over East Carolina … Virginia takes on Washington Monday in the first round of the Maui Invitational. On Tuesday, the Cavaliers will play either Kentucky or Oklahoma … North Carolina's lack of depth in the paint was a major factor in its loss to Minnesota. The Tar Heels have just three quality post players in Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Justin Knox … Iman Shumpert leads Georgia Tech in points (15.3), rebounds (7.3), assists (3.3) and steals (2.5). Shumpert, though, is shooting just 34.7 percent from the field.
THREE TO WATCH
Duke vs. Kansas State/Gonzaga, Tuesday – Assuming Duke beats Marquette on Monday, the championship game of the CBE Classic should be a dandy – especially if the top-ranked Blue Devils face No. 3 Kansas State. Considering the game is in Kansas City, the environment would be one of the toughest Duke would face all season.
Boston College vs. Texas A&M, Thursday – The Eagles face a tough test in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. Reggie Jackson and Joe Trapani – who are averaging a combined 38.5 points – will have to come up big for Boston College.
Florida at Florida State, Sunday – The 10th-ranked Gators suffered an 18-point loss to Ohio State last week and didn't look all that impressive in Sunday's 61-55 victory over Morehead State. It certainly wouldn't be shocking if Florida State won this game at home.
- North Carolina
- Wake Forest
- Boston College
- North Carolina State