Thursday, March 02, 2006

Maryland pieces together win

It wasn't a great effort but it was enough to keep Maryland's slim NCAA hopes alive. The offense was slightly above the recent thoroughly terrible efforts against North Carolina and Florida State, but it won't scare anyone. Shooting just over 40% isn't going to win you many games nor is only hitting two out of thirteen 3-point shots. Maryland's defense harassed and fatigued Miami's guard trio enough to keep them from shooting above 40% from the floor and 37% from 3-point range.

Maryland shot 15 more freethrows than Miami while only committing 5 fewer fouls than the Hurricanes. Five of those fouls came in the last 30 seconds as Miami was forced to foul to stretch the game out. The Terps were much more efficient in getting to the foul line and once there they hit 80% of their freebies. It helped to offset Maryland's poor shooting and would be very useful in the next few games if it continued. Maryland prevented Miami's frontcourt from doing damage on offensive rebounds as Hamiliton and King had 9 offensive rebounds but only managed 8 points combined. In a nip and tuck game these little things were enough to pull out a win.

Maryland's careless ballhandling almost cost them the game as they coughed up 20 turnovers yet again. Over the last 5 games Maryland has averaged 21 turnovers per game. It is axiomatic, but a team will not win on the road with that many mistakes. Sterling Ledbetter twice threw the ball out of bounds without a single player touching the ball, which is quite a feat with nine other ACC caliber players on the floor. DJ Strawberry didn't play out of control as he had in the previous two games and had a decent night defending Guillermo Diaz, drawing two offensive fouls on Diaz. There was a fair amount of yapping going on between these two. The halfcourt offense wasn't great but Ledbetter and Strawberry didn't dominate the ball like they had in the previous two losses and so they gave the other players on the team a chance to contribute. It is tough to figure out the role of Parrish Brown right now. He is being used in spot duty even though Ledbetter is at best a mediocre defender and virtually no threat to score.

Nik Caner-Medley had a nice night for what may be his last game in Comcast, though a possible home game in the NIT looms. He started off the game very well by getting some good drives to the basket and scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half. Then his teammates forgot about him and he was less of a factor in the 2nd half. This has happened in a number of games recently. I don't know if Caner-Medley is wearing down a little given that he's averaged 38 minutes in the last six games, but there isn't really much of an option coming off the bench right now. He's done his best to carry Maryland since McCray flunked off the team and has done an admirable job. He's the only player with a serious shot at All-ACC honors.

Mike Jones has struggled with his shooting lately and didn't make many shots last night either. Going 9-35 in the last three games isn't good enough. Maryland's offense is fairly impotent without Jones scoring from outside or getting to the foul line. If Gary Williams is going to rely on Jones for next season it would be nice to see more from the junior in this stretch run.

Ekene Ibekwe had an effective night and was one point from another double-double. He grabbed seven rebounds in the 2nd half and had several critical rebounds in the pivotal moments of the game with Maryland trailing. He still gets manhandled by bigger stronger post players which requires him to play with a tenacity that he can't always muster.

James Gist got into foul trouble and wasn't much of a factor until the final moments when he hit what turned out to be the game winning shot. Gist has the ability to step out and hit those mid-range shots and if he was able to refine his inside game and defense he could be a superstar. Right now he can't find any consistency.

Travis Garrison got the start as a senior and looked like he cared about the outcome for the first time in a while. He still takes ill advised shots and won't pass out of the post but hit some crucial freethrows in the 2nd half. If he can provide about 6-8 points and 5-7 rebounds off the bench he'll help Maryland's NCAA chances dramatically.

With an RPI that sits at 51 Maryland still has the best shot of getting into the NCAAs of the remaining bubble ACC teams. Florida State had a huge win against Duke last night but still has a precarious RPI of 54 and a putrid non-conference schedule. They must beat Miami to keep their hopes alive. Maryland needs to win at Virginia, who is struggling badly, and get to 8-8 in the conference. As a 6 or 7 seed in the ACC tournament Maryland can win in the first round and will then get a bid to the NCAAs baring a string of upsets in other conference tournaments. Surprisingly this team isn't dead yet.

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