Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Generalissimo Arrives

Or perhaps the term caudillo is more appropriate for the electric Venezuelan.

Simply a transcendent performance by Greivis Vasquez. With Maryland struggling and suddenly down five points at 48-43 the freshman willed the game to Maryland by scoring 8 straight points to get Maryland back into the game. In the last eight and a half minutes Vasquez scored 12 points and had 15 out of Maryland's 38 2nd half points. He played like a senior, giving the Terps the lift they needed after blowing an early double digit lead. As I wrote many months ago Vasquez will be a special player at Maryland. He clearly shines off the bench and for now that is the role in which he is best suited. Eric Hayes did get slightly rattled in the game but he usually brings a more even and controlled tempo to the team. He is a slightly better distributor and the other players seem to be more comfortable with Hayes on the floor.

Maryland started off like gangbusters and blitzed the Illinois crowd out of the game. Then the atmosphere and defensive pressure combined to get some of the younger players out of rhythm. The last 10 minutes of the half and first 10 minutes of the 2nd half were as awful as the Terps have played all year. Maryland got lazy on defense and started settling for poor shots on offense. Keep in mind that not only are Hayes and Vasquez freshman but Bambale Osby, playing for the injured Ekene Ibekwe, was playing in his first truly big game at Maryland. While Osby and Hayes didn't elevated their game to the stratosphere like Vasquez they both regained their composure and sunk four big freethrows to ice the game. The young players got a little rattled but in giving up a large lead and then fighting back to pull the game out they showed impressive toughness.

Mike Jones started red hot and finished with 19 points though he was very quiet in the 2nd half. Jones only played 11 minutes in the 2nd half while Maryland struggled to generate any offense. His defense is still spotty but that is what you get in return for his ability to score almost anywhere inside the NBA 3-point line. Without Jones' 19 points Maryland would not have been able to overcome the absence of Ibekwe and the struggles of DJ Strawberry to win at Illinois. I felt that some of the substitution patterns were a little strange but given the results it would seem a little churlish to complain.

James Gist had a game that encapsulates his career at Maryland so far. At times he was dominant but then disappeared during critical stretches of the game. In the first half he clearly dominated the Illinois front court with 9 points and 3 blocks but he had more turnovers (3) than points (2) in the second half even though he played 19 minutes. Will Bowers played a season high 16 minutes and while he was largely effective on defense his rebounding was atrocious. I feel bad for Bowers as it seems he has lost all his confidence and has been relegated to the fourth big man in the rotation. Unless he shows more passion and intensity for the limited minutes he is on the floor it won't get any better for him. Bowers and the other front court players allowed 21 offensive rebounds to Illinois which allowed them to shoot 15 more field goal attempts than Maryland. Defensive rebounding has been a major problem for the team so far this season but the perimeter defense and the Terps own shooting has allowed them to overcome this problem.

At 8-0 for the season and a showdown with Boston College over a week away Maryland is in an excellent position and forcing everyone in the nation to recognize Maryland is back!

Maryland snapped Illinois 51 game home winning streak, the longest active streak in the nation.

Both Will Bowers and Greivis Vasquez had cuts opened up on their noses by the physical play.

1 comment:

Jason said...

That was indeed an impressive game. I got pretty worried in the second half when Maryland was down by 5. Up to that point in the season, we have not been down to anyone in the second half. But then Vasquez took over and we ended the Illini win streak.

Osby continues to impress me with his effort. There was one play where he had a lay-up. Instead of celebrating after the basketball like the team from the previous years, he sprinted down the court, passed all the Maryland players, and settled in under the opponent basket ready to block out for a rebound. I haven't seen someone hussle like that since our national championship team.

Bowers, on the other hand, continues to go backwards. He can't rebound, he can't block, and he can't shoot. On the court, he looked 4 ft tall.