Monday, November 14, 2005

Terps Rout Virginia Union

In the final exhibition game Maryland blitz Division II national champion Virginia Union 89-59. Virginia Union had come off of a upset of VCU, coached by former Dukie Jeff Chapel. They upset VCU last season as well so don't make the mistake of thinking that VU is a cupcake team. I suspect they were more of a challenge than most of the mid-majors that Maryland will play before Christmas. Maryland seems to be ready for the start of the season and, even though they have some things to work on, they are confident that they can play with anyone.

Maryland was sloppy in the first half, amassing 16 turnovers, including 4 by DJ Strawberry and 3 by Sterling Ledbetter. Virginia Union's 25% shooting kept them from being ahead at the break. Maryland righted itself in the 2nd half and shot a blistering 63% from the floor and 6-10 from the 3-point line. Chris McCray, Mike Jones and Nik Caner-Medley were a combined 6-7 from behind the arch. If Michael Adams and Ron Moxley have really improved the outside shooting that much then Maryland will be a very dangerous team.

Sophomore James Gist continued to demonstrate his improvement and may become a household name by the middle of the season. He recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds to go along with 3 blocks. His free throw shooting was impressive as he nailed 5-6 from the stripe. He has a great feel for the game and explosive athleticism which is a rare combination. He could be the dominating inside presence that the Terps lacked last season.

Ekene Ibekwe had a second disappointing outing. He managed only 16 minutes and accrued 4 fouls in the process. He grabbed an impressive 7 rebounds in that time but needs to play with more poise and avoid silly fouls that land him on the bench. Travis Garrison had a solid game off the bench with 9 points and 5 rebounds. Even if Ibekwe can't correct his fouling problems the combination of Garrison and Ibekwe could be effective. Will Bowers was MIA with only 9 minutes in which he grabbed only one rebound and committed three fouls. He needs to develop consistency in coming off the bench.

Chris McCray and Mike Jones are becoming the best SG combination in the league this season. They combined for 31 points, 10 rebounds 4 steals and 6 assists to go with only 2 turnovers. This will give the Terrapins impressive depth at this vital position.

The point rotation of Strawberry and Ledbetter struggled with 11 assists to 9 turnovers. Maryland won't need either of them to score much but they must play good defense and not turn the ball over. Strawberry admitted to forcing some plays that he shouldn't have and Ledbetter improved in the 2nd half with 6 assists and no turnovers.

Nik Caner-Medley has abandoned his poor decision making and is content to not dominate the ball as he had the last two season. Consequently he is taking good shots and McCray and Jones are flourishing. This is a very promising development.

Recruit News

Adding to their very good 2006 class rumors have Maryland set to get another verbal commitment from 2007 PF/C Braxton Dupree of Calvert Hall in Baltimore. This 6-8 280 pound monster is a consensus top 50 player in the '07 class and would be a fantastic way to start the ball rolling on a fantastic and vital recruiting season. Maryland is in the mix for a slew of top 100 players in this class and a big commit can open the floodgates for others to follow. Assistant coach Rob Moxley is pushing hard for SG Jeff Jones from Pennsylvania, C Kosta Koufos from Ohio and Julian Vaughn of Virginia, among others.

ACC News

Wake Forest needed overtime to beat a scrappy and good George Mason squad, 83-78. Not a good omen for the Deacons who struggled in their two exhibition games. I had felt they were a strong contender for 2nd place in the conference but now I feel they'll struggle to be in the top 4.

Virginia Tech lost to mid-major Bowling Green at home, 72-71. It was the first time Bowling Green had defeated an ACC team since 1967. Unfortunately for the Hokies it wasn't an exhibition game. It further solidifies the conclusion that VT has a long way to go before they have a respectable basketball program. Last season looks more and more like a smoke and mirrors show when they were able to scrape together an 8-8 ACC record while only playing Wake, UNC and Duke 4 times total.

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