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Rebounding remains critical issue for Terps

With just less than four minutes remaining in the first half Sunday, Florida Atlantic guard Sanchez Hughley snagged an offensive rebound off a missed three-point attempt by teammate Shavar Richardson. Hughley's ensuing layup attempt was blocked by freshman forward James Padgett, but FAU forward Brett Royster grabbed that rebound. Royster then scored to cut his team's deficit to 11 and extend its 7-2 run.

Dismayed, Maryland Coach Gary Williams called a 30-second timeout and implored his players to stop "standing and watching" as FAU continued to generate second- and third-chance scoring opportunities.

Though the Terrapins claimed a 13-point win Sunday, they lost the rebounding battle, 49-45, to an opponent that entered the game with a negative rebounding margin. Maryland's performance on the boards has been a persistent issue for the team thus far, despite the fact the Terrapins' roster appeared better set at the season's outset to improve its front-court capability.

In addition to senior forward Landon Milbourne, Maryland also possesses a pair of freshman forwards (6-foot-10 Jordan Williams and 6-8 James Padgett) with enough size and skill to make an immediate impact in the rebounding department. Indeed, Jordan Williams leads the team in rebounding (8.0 per game), while Padgett is averaging 4.3 rebounds per game. Junior forward Dino Gregory -- who Gary Williams praised as being one of the top rebounders and defenders in the ACC down the streth last season -- recently returned from a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules to bolster Maryland's post presence.

Still, the team continues to struggle with asserting itself on the boards. Maryland currently owns a minus-0.5 rebounding margin.

"I think that's one of those things where everybody says, 'Well, you'll be a better rebounding team. You've got Padgett. You've got Jordan. You'll be fine,'" Gary Williams said Sunday. "It doesn't work that way. You have to earn it every time."

Following Sunday's win, Gary Williams was asked whether the team's rebounding deficiencies were because of a lack of know-how or a lack of want-to. The coach said that although he is a staunch proponent of technique when it comes to many aspects of the game, rebounding is not one of them.

Desire, effort, grit -- those are the keys, he said, to rebounding well. Milbourne agreed wholeheartedly.

"You can just tell it’s an attitude thing because we’re a little bit bigger than we were last year, but last year we were a way better rebounding team, and I think that’s because we were focused on that a lot more last year," said Milbourne, who is averaging 4.8 rebounds per game. "I think it’s just a small problem. I mean, it’s a small problem to fix because we know exactly what it is. It’s just a matter of us doing it. It’s just a matter of us going after the ball and making up in our mind that we’re going to try and go get every rebound. And I don’t think we’re thinking that way right now. I think we’re just trying to see where the ball’s going, see how hard we can play, see how hard we’ve got to go in there. You can’t really judge that. Sometimes you just got to go. Once we fix that we’ll be okay."

Junior guard Cliff Tucker said Maryland's size is not mentioned often during practice because Gary Williams "doesn't want us to worry about stuff like that." Tucker said he believes Maryland's rebounding problems arise at times because players think someone else is going after the ball.

"I think Jordan [Williams] did well today, but he was kind of by himself," Tucker said Sunday after Jordan Williams pulled down six rebounds against FAU. "A lot of times it was like one-on-four, so that's how they got a lot of offensive rebounds."

The Owls outrebounded Maryland on the offensive glass, 23-15. FAU forward Brett Royster tallied a game-high 14 rebounds.

"That's kind of upsetting because we've been focusing on that for a while, and it just hasn't clicked yet," Milbourne said of Royster's individual performance on the boards. "It's real bad when you're playing a team that's out of conference and somebody comes out and gets that many rebounds on you. You know, sometimes you've just got to take that upon yourself and just go out there and stop guys and get rebounds. Even if you can't get it, just don't let your man get it."

Maryland is the only team in the ACC with a negative rebounding margin at this point in the season, which does not bode well considering conference play is less than two weeks away. The Terrapins have been able to overcome their issues on the boards against many of their nonconference opponents. Whether they will be able to do so against ACC foes remains to be seen.

"We have to do something," Gary Williams said. "I think that's critical to our success this year, to become a better rebounding team. I know we don't go for the ball as well as we should, given that we play pretty good defense. They're connected. There's no reason to play that type of defense and then give up second shots. It just doesn't make any sense, so we'll address it. Hopefully we can fix it."

By Steve Yanda  |  December 29, 2009; 8:10 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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