Maryland radio analyst Chris Knoche called the game against Duke a fiasco and that is about as concise as you could get in describing the ugly effort the Terps put forth last night. They seemed incapable of hitting any open shots or even accomplishing the basics of throwing and catching a pass. The result was a contest that was all but decided after the first ten minutes.
You don't need the box score to figure out that Maryland couldn't do three things: play defense, hit a field goal and protect the ball.
Maryland had 29 turnovers for the game and had 12 in the first 11 minutes of the game. Chris McCray lead the team with six turnovers. Before everyone decides to pile on DJ Strawberry, who had 5 of his own turnovers, keep in mind that without him the rest of the team piled up 24. The entire squad is guilty of sloppy ball handling. The low post players, especially Travis Garrison, seemed unable to handle any entry passes. Gary Williams tried desperately to find some combination of guards that would be able to hold onto the ball but there wasn't an solution to be found in Sterling Ledbetter or Parrish Brown who combined for 6 turnovers. Ekene Ibekwe was the only regular who had fewer turnovers than field goals. The helter skelter style of Maryland's play exacerbates their poor ball handling and you have to wonder if they would be better off abandoning the up tempo style Williams' teams are known for.
It took Maryland nearly four minutes before they made their first field goal and they started the game by going 3 for 16 from the floor. They simply couldn't hit anything. This group has never been a good jump shooting team and that was very apparent last night. The only reliable threat from 3-point range on the squad is Mike Jones, who's inability to play basic defensive sets keeps him on the bench. McCray and Caner-Medley are unable to make more than the occasional outside shot and both have career averages from 3-point range near 33%. In an age of college ball where 40% has become the standard for good outside shooting that isn't even mediocre. Neither DJ Strawberry nor Ledbetter were expected to provide much in the way of perimeter scoring. It is a real deficiency in an era where you have to be able to hit the outside shot to keep defenses from collapsing on your post players.
The much hyped ability of Chris McCray to hamper and shut down JJ Reddick was nowhere to be seen last night. Reddick got free on screens and drives to the basket and McCray often lost him when Duke was in transition. He even fouled Reddick on a three point shot right before halftime to get the bonehead play of the night. In spite of Reddick's modest shooting percentage McCray played a terrible defensive game. Strawberry struggled with Greg Paulus, although the freshman had 5 turnovers, and Paulus used his forearm to illegally shield Maryland defenders all night. The post players did a decent job as Sheldon Williams got most of his points off transition and put backs. Williams was blocked a number of times by the post players and frosh Josh McRoberts was a total non-factor. Duke was outrebounded 45-37, of those 21 were offensive rebounds.
The goats of the night have to be Chris McCray and Travis Garrison. These two looked more like spooked freshman in their first road game than seniors with over a hundred college games to their credit. McCray was dreadful in the first 10 minutes when Maryland needed him to step up and make some plays. He even stepped out of bounds after catching a pass on the wing. It was very disappointing to see a senior captain make those kinds of mistakes, even worse coming off the Miami game where he was held to 5 points. He gathered 9 of his 12 points after Maryland was already trailing by 20 points or more including four meaningless points with less than 4 minutes remaining in the blowout. Travis was, well, Travis. He missed every shot he attempted, going 0-8, and in spite getting 4 offensive rebounds he failed to score even a single point in 20 minutes. That takes a certain kind of skill. In one sequence he was blocked twice in consecutive shots, once by the basket and once by Duke's Sheldon Williams. It was emblematic of Garrison's tentative and ineffective career at Maryland.
The only Maryland player who deserved kudos was Ekene Ibekwe. He scored 8 points and grabbed 9 rebounds all without turning the ball over. He played decent defense on Sheldon Williams in spite of giving up 30-40 pounds. The bogus technical foul called on Ekene was the result of a ridiculous flop by Sean Dockery as Ibekwe pushed him away from a jump ball scrum between Paulus and McCray. It was a typical cowardly play by a Duke player. I'm not sure how those kinds of smarmy feigning deceptions of the officials that Coach K's players engage in constitutes "heady" play or demonstrate "hustle" but no one else seems interested in pointing that out.
Perhaps it is time to recalibrate our expectations for this group. I'm starting to think that just returning to the NCAAs is about as much as we can hope for out of this disjointed and flawed mess of players. So much for Williams' hints about lineup changes as it was the usual suspects at tipoff last night. I hope for the sake of the team that Gary does shake some things up in practice and the lineups. The loss makes the game Sunday against Wake Forest a critical matchup. Going 1-3 in the conference might not be insurmountable but it would make Maryland's postseason hopes much slimmer. Wake Forest, coming off an overtime loss to Clemson last night, will be just as desperate to avoid starting ACC play with 3 losses. Maryland fans will need to all come out and be vocal to buoy the sagging morale of this squad.
The Business of College Sports
An interesting article from ESPN on how things are done in SEC land. The sad thing is the ACC is on its way there.