Sunday, February 04, 2007

Maryland desperately needed its first road win of the season and they got it, if just barely. The Terps had a efficient offense performance with 19 assists on 28 field goals for 52.8% shooting. Many of those baskets were within six feet of the rim and Maryland only hit three of fifteen attempts from 3-point range. On defense Maryland rebounded from an atrocious game against Florida State to hold Wake Forest to 41% shooting and only 8-26 from 3-point range. They held a slim +3 rebounding margin but also gave up 12 offensive rebounds to the Deacons.

After stretching the lead to 23 points in the 2nd half the Terps almost squandered their advantage as Wake got within 5 points at the end of the game. The 37-19 run that the Deacons were able to muster was sparked by Michael Drum who scored 16 points in about six minutes. Mike Jones did such an ineffective job guarding Drum that Gary Williams finally put DJ Strawberry on the senior, but not before he was able to rally Wake Forest to within striking distance. Maryland was able to hang on for the final minutes even though the foul shooting was spotty, including by reserve Dave Neal who was placed in the game for his passing and foul shooting and promptly missed both of his attempts. I'm not sure how the team could feel very good about this game. Coach Williams seemed to indicate in his post game comments that he didn't think Maryland would win by 20 points, but I doubt he expected his team to almost blow a 23 point advantage either. Only Wake Forest's inexpereince and poor defense kept them from overtaking Maryland. The Terps would have lost this game if they were playing most of the other teams in the league. They still have a long way to go if they expect to play their way into the NCAA tournament.

James Gist continued his stellar play with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. His aggressiveness in going to the basket and his three assists in the second half staved off Wake's desperate come back attempt. That is a good thing since it was Gist's foolish technical foul for taunting after a dunk with ten minutes left in the game that sparked the Deacon's run. I'm not sure if he is picking up some bad habits from Ekene Ibekwe since technical fouls that end up costing Maryland the game seem to be Ibekwe's signature move. Very disappointing and out of character for Gist, who is a gentleman by most accounts.

Speaking of Ibekwe he had 16 points and 10 rebounds but also had his share of costly mistakes. He almost had as many turnovers(4) as field goals(6), which isn't a ratio that will help Maryland win many games. He even added a 3-second violation, which I haven't seen called in a college game in a while. Most of his baskets were on dunks or with a foul laden Kyle Visser guarding him. It was another example of a nice looking stat line that doesn't tell the true story.

DJ Strawberry didn't have a great game but played well enough to help Maryland get a road victory. Stawberry has put a great deal of pressure on himself to lead this team but he'd probably do better to allow other players to carry the team. Vasquez and Hayes both bounced back from terrible games at Florida State to do a great job against Wake Forest's equally young backcourt. Vasquez had five assists and only two turnovers while Hayes added in 12 points. At the moment Hayes is contributing more than senior Mike Jones who continues to struggle. Jones didn't score a point in 20 minutes and was ineffective on defense. It seemed Skip Prosser was content to almost throw out his playbook and let Michael Drum go one-on-one with Jones. Sadly he won that matchup. I'd like to see more sets with Hayes and Vasquez on the floor at the same time, with the minutes coming at Jones' expense. Will Bowers came off the bench and contributed a tidy 7 points to the winning effort.

Maryland needs a great deal of improvement if they are going to be competitive with confident Virginia team on Tuesday. There wasn't much to take from this game except that it got Maryland another game closer to 0.500 in the ACC. Wake Forest may not be the worst team in the ACC, but they are in the neighborhood. It is impressive how Visser has improved since last year when he was an after thought amongst more heralded players. He has rounded out his game and is an effective low post player. If only Will Bowers could have provided the same level of play Maryland would be in much better shape. Ishmael Smith will be a good point guard as he matures and some of the other young players on Prosser's roster may develop but that are a very flawed bunch. The fact that they nearly came back against Maryland when they had the game well in hand sours the good feeling the Terps may have otherwise enjoyed going into Tuesday's huge showdown.

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