Monday, February 13, 2006

Rosetta Stone

Like last season the Terps have a critical game for their postseason hopes with the Clemson Tigers. Clemson will likely be without guard Vernon Hamilton who injured his wrist and thumb at the end of the Boston College game. Hamilton is the leading scorer for Clemson and probably their best all around player but I'm not really sure how much his absence will help Maryland's chances given that he hadn't been playing very well the last few losses. Clemson isn't a very good scoring team but they play solid defense and play for some steals and easy transition baskets. They are not really dependent on one particular player, though Hamilton did keep the game against Duke close for them.

If Hamilton does not play then Shawan Robinson will start at point guard in his place. Robinson killed Maryland last year as he hit numerous clutch 3-point baskets in the three wins over the Terps. In those three games he scored 63 points and made 14 3-point baskets. Moving him to the point may help Maryland remove him from the equation on the scoring end as he plays much better without the ball. Forward Akin Akinbala has played better as of late and has 7 straight double figure scoring performances. He had 21 points and 7 rebounds against Boston College in the last game.

Clemson takes over 23 3-point attempts per game but makes less than a third of those. Of course with Maryland's pathetic perimeter defense you never know if that will change tonight. Whomever Sterling Ledbetter ends up guarding will likely have a season high. Maryland's frontcourt will have to rebound some of the long caroms from those outside misses to prevent offensive rebounds. Maryland's frontcourt should dominate Clemson but with this inconsistent group you can't rely on more than one having a good night. Hopefully James Gist or Ekene Ibekwe will step up large tonight.

Given Clemson's proclivity for the steal Maryland will have to continue to take care of the ball. Maryland has done fairly well with that in the last four games as they have not turned it over more than 13 times in any contest. They will need more of that. When they don't turn the ball over they score. Duke is the number one defense in the ACC and Maryland scored more points against them in regulation than any team this season. The problem isn't scoring it is not turning the ball over and playing good defense. If Maryland does both they'll win easily, if not it will be an ugly, ugly dogfight that may end in the low 60's.

Do the Maryland players want this game more than Clemson? That will decide the outcome. The Tigers have not won 4 in a row against Maryland since 1951. Losing this game would set another historical low point for this current group. Let's hope on Valentine's Day they show the fans some love and play with the pride befitting a Maryland team. This game really is a critical matchup for Maryland and a loss would be devastating. In the midst of a 5 game losing streak(including 2 at home and 7 out of the last 8), missing their leading scorer and point guard, Maryland couldn't ask for a more vulnerable opponent. This week will decide Maryland's postseason hopes. Clemson and Georgia Tech on Saturday are must win games. Say a fervent prayer, put on any lucky clothing, sacrifice a chicken, do whatever you must.

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