I'll talk about the game in a moment but first I have some potentially bad news to pass along. Rumors are circulating that a prominent member of the team is in danger of being ruled academically ineligible and that a meeting will take place this week to determine if he will be suspended and his season ended. This could be a harsh blow to Maryland's chances at getting back to the NCAAs. If you're wondering who it might be look at the bench and see who is suddenly getting 20 minutes a game. That should tell you who is being prepared to take over if needed. Hopefully this will resolve itself and I won't need to discuss it anymore.
So, onto the game...
Maryland was able to build on the victory over Wake Forest last week and finish off a pesky Virginia Tech squad on Saturday. The problems that Virginia Tech faces are fairly plain to see for any longtime ACC basketball fan. They have no quality depth at almost any position. Once Coleman Collins was shut down by Will Bowers it became a one man show with Zabian Dowdell trying to carry the scoring load. Maryland tried switching several defenders on Dowdell including Strawberry, McCray and Sterling Ledbetter. Ledbetter probably did the best job of the three but none of them we able to totally deny Dowdell some scoring chances. It didn't really matter though because Dowdell may get 21 points but it took him 19 shots to accomplish that. For a Virginia Tech team that struggles offensively they need a player who is more efficient than that. Usually that would be Jamon Gordon but he got into early foul trouble then tweaked his ankle and was never a factor in the game. Without his backcourt partner Dowdell was forced to create for himself and took the rest of his teammates out of the game. Not that any of his teammates would have been able to change the outcome, but once the Hokies' offense became one dimensional the game was all but decided. I do have to give the Virginia Tech players credit as they never stopped fighting and give maybe the best effort of any team in the league.
As expected Maryland crushed Virginia Tech on the boards and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, including a bunch of put back dunks. The Terps protected the ball against the active Hokie defense only giving up 14 turnovers. Maryland sunk 20 freethrows while Virginia Tech only attempted 16. That is pretty much all you need to know. You do all those things and the better talent will almost always win out.
Nik Caner-Medley was especially impressive. He exploited favorable matchups with Deron Washington and scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half with the outcome of the game far from certain. Nik went a scorching 9-14 from the field, mostly due to some excellent shot selection. He did most of his damage in the paint and added 8 rebounds to the cause. He played smart on both ends of the court and only gave up one turnover in a team high 32 minutes. His give and go with Will Bowers was a thing of beauty.
Bowers for his part may have resurrected his season. After barely getting on the floor against Miami and Duke he has posted 18 and 20 minutes in his last two games. His bulk and height really bothered Coleman Collins who had been abusing Maryland's low post defense until then. He forced Collins to post up well outside the lane and some well timed held defense prevented Collins from making moves to the basket. He may have only scored 4 points on some nice hook shots but his defense was worth close to 10 points.
DJ Strawberry again showed that he is the consummate team player. After coming off a career high 18 points against Wake Forest he only shot the ball 6 times for 4 points but dished out 8 assists. He made a few mistakes, among them 4 turnovers , but his decision making was steady and he was patient in finding the open man.
Chris McCray is still in a shooting slump but he was able to salt away the game with 6 freethrows at the end.
James Gist further tightened his grip on a starting spot with several breath taking dunks. I believe Gary Williams when he says that Gist has no idea how good he can be yet. Gist isn't just a dunk machine. He has a nice touch around the basket as well. His rebound and dunk off of a missed 3-pointer by McCray was simply amazing. Few players have that sense of timing or athletic ability.
Virginia Tech shot 2-13 from 3-point range. That is 15%.
Maryland is still streaky from 3-point range as the team only hit 3-10 shots. Maryland will need to pick that up against the better teams, as they did against Wake Forest, to compete. Look for Mike Jones to make a large contribution to improving that number.