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Terps lay down law while Virginia defense rests

COLLEGE PARK, Md.--Virginia Coach Pete Gillen is used to having his team play a good defensive game. He's been known to say that the defense sparks the offense and he's also been known to praise his players' defensive efforts -- sometimes even more than their offense. But in last night's 91-79 loss to No. 25 Maryland, all that Gillen could say was that the Virginia defense fell apart.

"We didn't defend like we should have," he said. "They did a good job running their offense and our defense was really poor. We couldn't stop anyone."

Defensive struggles can cause problems against any basketball team, but against a physical squad like Maryland, a lack of defense can be deadly, as Virginia learned early on.

Maryland 6-foot-8 center Lonny Baxter dominated the Cavaliers with 24 points and eight rebounds, while All-American Terence Morris pulled down 11 rebounds and notched 18 points for the Terps. And it seemed that whatever the Cavs did to stop Baxter and Morris backfired on them.

In the first half, Virginia's usual attacking defense only resulted in one steal and few turnovers, while the Cavs were whistled for multiple fouls, mostly because of their attempts at tough defense.

With 8:16 left in the first half, the Cavs already had committed nine personal fouls. By the end of the half, Maryland had attempted 18 free throws while the Cavs only had five tries from the charity stripe. The fact that Maryland made 15 of those free throws was bad enough, but the Cavs allowed themselves to get frustrated during the game because of the foul calls. As a young team that still has a lot left to learn, the frustration did the Cavaliers in as much as their lack of defensive intensity.

"We got frustrated. When they shoot 18 free throws and we shoot five, you get frustrated," Gillen said.

And for Virginia, the frustration was obvious. The Cavaliers appeared shaken at times and Maryland thrived on those opportunities, which only led to more frustration -- and more fouls.

"Some refs let you play and some refs don't," Cavalier second-year Adam Hall said. "And in this game, they [didn't] let us play. They called every little foul, but that's no excuse. [Maryland] still picked us apart on the offense."

The trouble was that there was nothing Virginia could do to prevent being attacked. When they tried to pick up the defense, they were called for fouls, and when they backed off to a zone defense, Baxter and Morris exploited the Cavaliers.

"Lonny Baxter kicked our tail on anyone who was on him," Gillen said. "We got frustrated and out of sync and Maryland took advantage of that."

The Cavs went into the locker room down by five at the half and closed the lead to one with 15:48 left to play. But with the team as shaken as it was, the game got out of Virginia's hands, especially in the last 10 minutes of play when the Terp lead fluctuated between eight and 18 points. The Cavs also turned the ball over 18 times last night, including 10 miscues in the second half.

"It's easy to get frustrated because we're not in our place and they've got the fans and the refs and it's a little bit of everything," Cavalier guard Majestic Mapp said. "But for the most part, it was our defense. Our defense just wasn't there."

While nights like these are bound to happen even to the best of basketball teams, falling apart and getting frustrated shouldn't be part of the regular equation. While last night's loss is a tough one to swallow, Virginia will learn from the experience and be a stronger team as a result. But the Cavaliers need to regroup for that to happen.

"We've got more work to do and we've got to get better on defense," Hall said. "We just didn't give it all we've got"


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