ATLANTA -- Dion Glover can't play this season but that doesn't mean he can't talk some trash.
Sporting a crisp blue dress shirt and a pair of snappy gray slacks, the injured Georgia Tech guard took his customary seat on the Yellow Jacket bench Sunday and proceeded to bark encouragement at his teammates and jibes at the Maryland Terrapins. In any other game, most opposing players would have taken Glover's remarks in stride.
Then again, most opposing players aren't Steve Francis.
The Maryland guard, projected by many to be a first-team All-American, turned Glover's first-half remarks into a furious burst of offense that led to a 91-60 blowout at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
"He was just telling me to play hard," said Francis, a junior college transfer whose 22 game-high points were exclaimed by five vicious dunks. "It was no big deal."
Hardly. Francis already had tied the game 27-27 with a dunk before his 3-pointer put the fifth-ranked Terrapins ahead 35-27. As he headed to the Maryland bench during Tech's 20-second timeout, Francis shouted, "I want a piece of you!" at Glover and immediately was pulled aside by referee Jim Burr.
Though Maryland coach Gary Williams briefly removed Francis from the game, the damage had been done. In the final 5:21 of the first half, Maryland outscored Tech 26-4, forced four turnovers and literally embarrassed the overmatched Jackets into intermission.
Glover, whose season ended in October when he tore up his left knee, admitted his mistake and added that he and Francis had no prior history of bad relations.
"I was just getting on him," Glover said afterward. "I guess it didn't work too well."
Tech coach Bobby Cremins allowed a smile but spoke no meaning to Glover's inciting of Francis. Cremins would only acknowledge that Francis joined Laron Profit (17 points), Terrence Morris and Terrell Stokes as a catalyst for Maryland's unstoppable transition game.
"He's a special player," Cremins said. "I've been around this game a long time and there aren't many players who compare to him. (Former North Carolina State star) David Thompson comes to mind."
In reality, Tech surely didn't need to throw any verbal jabs at Maryland. The Jackets (14-13 overall, 5-9 ACC) came into this game having lost five of their last six but still had a chance to take sole possession of fourth place in the league.
Instead, what unfolded was a truly forgettable performance in a season that already has included two 41-point losses. Despite surprising the Terrapins with a 27-24 lead on Alvin Jones' sky hook, the Jackets completely folded from that point on.
Tech finished with 24 turnovers -- nine by 7-foot forward Jason Collier -- and made only five of 23 attempts on 3-pointers.
Freshman point guard Tony Akins, whose 119 turnovers were third-most in the nation through Thursday, committed four more miscues. Akins scored only five points on 2-for-12 field goal shooting
Maryland (23-4, 11-3) clinched sole possession of second place in the ACC by taking its biggest margin of victory on the road in 45 years. It scored more points in the final 5:21 of the first half -- 26 -- than it scored in the first 14:39.
Though he said otherwise, Tech guard Jason Floyd said Tech still has a realistic chance at making the NCAA Tournament. But as he hung his head low and mumbled, Floyd knew Tech must win the ACC Tournament next month to make the NCAA field.
And a bid to the NIT won't come easy.
"It's not a matter of whether we can do it," Floyd said before limping off to the training room. "It's a matter of whether we want to. We have to."
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