Sunday, February 05, 2006

Not so super Sunday

The method was slightly different but in the end the results were the same, a loss for the Terrapins. Maryland played with more smarts and with better effort against a very shaky NC State team but neither was enough to pull off what could have been a season changing victory. Now Maryland sits at 4-4 in the ACC and plummets to 7th place behind 4 upcoming opponents. They won't have much time to feel sorry for themselves as the surprising Virginia Cavaliers will be in College Park on Tuesday to play what could be a pivotal game for Maryland's postseason hopes. Judging by the postgame comments the players are still optomistic, or perhaps just deluded. We'll see on Tuesday.

It was a nip and tuck game for 40 minutes as neither team ever led by double digits. The Wolfpack had a horrible 1st half as they shot only 25% from the floor. Maryland was able to cultivate a 7 point lead in the first half but had a dreadful last four minutes saw them squander the cushion. Holding the ball with 24 seconds left in the half DJ Strawberry dribbled off his own leg and gave the Wolfpack a fast break opportunity. Instead of going into the half with possibly a 5 point lead it was only one point.

As with the previous game the guard play, with the exception of Mike Jones, is what lost the game for Maryland. Strawberry and Sterling Ledbetter were mostly ineffective on both ends of the floor. Strawberry did score a team high 14 points but he still has little sense of what is a good shot versus a bad shot. DJ wasn't recruited for his shooting ability but if he's going to dominate the ball like he has been doing he must make better decisions. He's not a great shooter and needs to pick his spots instead of forcing low percentage shots. In the 2nd half Strawberry took some terrible shots and went 1-6 from the floor along with 2 turnovers. With just over two minutes left in the game only down 3 points Strawberry was guarding Tony Bethel when Ilian Evtimov came out to set a screen. The shot clock was winding down and Bethel had few options other than shooting a 3-pointer but instead of going over top of the pick like Strawberry should have done he was lazy and slid underneath Evtimov. Bethel calmly drained a 3-pointer, his fifth of the day, and the game was sealed. Ledbetter and Strawberry gave up a combined seven 3-pointers by the opponent they were guarding, mostly Bethel. Ledbetter in particular was pitiful in trying to defend his man and was repeatedly out of position or beaten to the lane on dribble penetrations. Mike Jones and Caner-Medley are widely considered poor defenders but combined they only gave up two 3-point baskets.

Mike Jones did his best to keep Maryland in the game with two 3-pointers in under a four minute span late in the game. He is the best threat among the guards as Ledbetter is a virtual non-factor on offense and Strawberry is more an opportunistic scorer, even though he has been forcing shots the last few games. Maryland needs to run more screens and motion for Jones to get better looks at the basket. If Strawberry and Ledbetter continue to take more shots then Maryland will continue to lose.

Nik Caner-Medley was fighting off the flu which explains his slow start in the game. His late heroics almost were enough to send the game into overtime. He finished with a double-double and was very effective on the defensive boards. James Gist had another solid outing and we can only hope that it is a sign he is becoming a reliable inside presence Maryland desperately needs. He was effective, along with Will Bowers, in containing Cedric Simmons who only had 6 points. Ekene Ibekwe's disappearance is mystifying. In the first 10 minutes of the game he traveled and then later stepped out of bounds when he had a clear path to the hoop. He only scored 2 points on 1-4 shooting. I really don't have any answers as to why his play has dropped off so badly. It may cost him his starting job going forward.

The frontcourt didn't play great and with Ibekwe and Garrison contributing little to the offense these days it puts great pressure on Jones and Caner-Medley to carry the scoring load. In this contest, however, it was the backcourt that let Maryland down. As much as I love Strawberry's intensity he often fails to play with discretion and savvy. If he continues to force his play Maryland will struggle to win games. He and Ledbetter should focus on getting the ball to the players who can help Maryland win and right now that is Jones, Caner-Medley and James Gist.

Offensive Rating: 92.1
Defensive Rating: 101.3

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