Friday, March 10, 2006

Chips falling into place

There are two kinds of games that don't lend themselves to much analysis: a blowout loss in which nothing goes right and the kind of win Maryland had over Georgia Tech last night. The Terps cruised to an 82-64 victory which really wasn't even that close. Whatever Maryland did seemed to work while Georgia Tech had trouble doing anything right. Maryland got a little complacent with a lead that ballooned to almost 30 points in the 2nd half and the reserves got a little careless with the ball but it wasn't really enough to quibble with. Once again Gary Williams has found a way to motivate this squad and get them to play their best basketball of the year at a critical time. At no point in the season, even before Chris McCray flunked off the team, has Maryland had such a complete effort as they did last night.

Nik Caner-Medley is playing like a senior who doesn't want to end his career in the NIT. His intensity and leadership has been kicked up to a new level in the last week. He had some excellent passes and used them to rack up 5 assists to go along with 20 points and 9 rebounds. He is playing the best basketball of his career in the last half of this season and has matured from a somewhat selfish player who played no defense and had terrible shot selection to a heady senior leader. It is a metamorphosis that all Maryland fans should take a moment to appreciate.

Mike Jones was in the zone last night. When Jones gets hot he can be unstoppable and he made several baskets with Georgia Tech defenders right in his face. His 13 first half points help establish a comfort zone for Maryland as they went into half with a 15 point lead. Jones is another player who is maturing before our eyes. He scored 19 points and grabbed 7 rebounds but he also played some of his best defense of the year and didn't turn the ball over once in 30 minutes of play. As the only defender back with Georgia Tech having a 3-1 advantage on a fast break Jones stripped the ball carrier and got an outlet pass that led to an easy dunk on the other end for the Terps. There is no way Jones would have been able to do that last year.

DJ Strawberry has also reinvigorated himself the last week. He had one of his best games of the season with 15 points, 7 assists and only 2 turnovers. He also added 3 steals and played ferocious defense. He got 9 points at the free throw line where he only missed one shot all night. It was the perfect game for Strawberry who seemed to be more of his old self on defense and more in control running the offense.

Ekene Ibekwe and James Gist were both limited by foul trouble as they both fouled out in the 2nd half. It limited their effectiveness as they scored 10 and 4 points respectively. Gary Williams has indicated that he wanted them to be aggressive in blocking shots and so the fouls can be explained as the byproduct of that order from the coach. In spite of that they played well and continue to improve on high screens and with their help defense. Ra'Sean Dickey only scored 5 points in the 2nd half and, with the help of double teams, he was effectively controlled.

Will Bowers continued to play solid low post defense as he has the last few months. He also added 5 points with some nifty low post moves. You would expect a 7 footer to rebound a little better but let's not get greedy at this point.

Sterling Ledbetter and Parrish Brown both struggled at times in mop up duty. Travis Garrison was yanked from the game after turning the ball over on an inbounds play and struggled in the 2nd half after Ibekwe and Gist fouled out.

It is widely reported that Maryland will have to also win against Boston College tonight to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. That may or may not be true depending on what happens in other tournaments around the country. Maryland beat Boston College way back in December in a close game at Comcast center. Ekene Ibekwe led the team with 21 points and 9 rebounds in that contest but BC center Sean Williams was suspended for that game. His height and shot blocking ability may hinder Maryland's frontcourt. Craig Smith dominated the last meeting so I would expect Will Bowers to see some more playing time for defensive reasons. I like Maryland's matchup at the guard positions and if Mike Jones can continue his hot shooting it gives Maryland a decided edge. I think it will be another close, nip and tuck kind of game. Maryland has some momentum and since this is Boston College's first ACC tournament I would go with Maryland as the winner.


Moe Greene said...

So much for that...

Anonymous said...

so much indeed =(...

perhaps we can do NIT champions this time around? (*strained smile*)