Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vasquez kidnapped by aliens

I'm not sure who this person is that is running around in Vasquez's number 21 jersey but they doesn't resemble the poised beyond his years freshman we saw for most of last season. Many of the headlines today will talk about his 21 points or mention he got a ridiculous "Regional MVP" trophy after the game, but if it wasn't for his terrible play Maryland would not have needed his late game heroics. There was plenty of blame to go around after this dreadful effort and he didn't get much help from anyone else besides James Gist but Maryland needs Vasquez to play smarter and play better than he showed last night. He is too important a player to drag the team down behind a slew of bone headed decisions. He was like the quarterback who throws four interceptions and then gets a game winning touchdown pass, if he hadn't been so dreadful for much of the game Maryland probably wins comfortably.

It was obvious that Gary Williams was talking about Vasquez when he said that there was "too much about guys trying to be stars before they are stars." The sophomore did a terrible job of running the half court offense for the second straight game which was born out by the paltry 12 assists Maryland accrued for the game. Vasquez made some awful shot selection decisions and got dragged into a silly mano-a-mano game with Hampton's Rashad West (complete with floor slapping, chest thumping theatrics) that helped to keep him making terrible decisions. He now has 13 turnovers in only two games this season compared with 10 assists. Vasquez needs to show more intensity on defense, as West burned him badly in the first half, and get his teammates involved on the offensive end. I'm not suggesting that Vasquez is selfish in the traditional sense or that his is just a bad teammate like John Gilchrist was in his time at Maryland. I think Vasquez really does care about winning and being a good teammate. He needs to learn the level of focus and dedication required to win consistently and be a dependable All-ACC level player.

Greivis isn't the only one who had a terrible night. Eric Hayes and Boom Osby also struggled badly throughout the night. Osby missed six straight free throws in the final six minutes that contributed to Hampton's comeback. He finished with more turnovers (3) than field goals (2) and seemed uncomfortable and out of sync the whole game. Hayes was slightly better than Vasquez at running the offense with only 4 turnovers for 4 assists but he offered little in the way of offense. He went 1/7 from the floor and got 4 of his 7 points shooting the technical free throws for Maryland. It was a dreadful offensive performance for Hayes and Maryland needs more than a handful of points from him to complement Vasquez.

Landon Milbourne fouled out in his first game of the year. He struggled on defense but did show some nice offensive skills in the early going. Foul trouble limited him to only two minutes in the 2nd half when his offensive skills were badly needed. He finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds.

James Gist had the type of game Maryland needs from its best player. He scored 16 points from all over the floor and went 2/3 from 3-point range. He also grabbed 12 rebounds for a double-double and also threw in 3 steals for good measure. He developed cramps late in the 2nd half and had to come out of the game. With Gist out Maryland's offense was very limited trying to rely on Osby and one of the freshmen, who have not shown much yet.

Cliff Tucker is having a nice start to his season. He has showed the ability to hit shots from the perimeter and get out in transition. He got taken advantage of on the defensive end with Milbourne on the bench with foul trouble but he was matched up against a 6-8 225 pound sophomore who can put it on the floor or shoot jumpers in Matthew Pilgrim. In 43 minutes he has not committed a turnover which is damn impressive for a freshman. Tucker seems to be the first guard off the bench in these early contests. He's a better shooter than his free throw percentage would indicate and I expect that will come back into the 65% range with more attempts.

Adrian Bowie had an unremarkable game with 10 minutes on the court with two points, two assists and two turnovers. He looked a little uncomfortable with the Hampton pressure, like all the other guards, and got yanked after making a few bad mistakes. His foul shooting continues to concern me for a player who goes to the basket as much as he does (5/8, 63%).

The freshmen frontcourt players have not been producing much. Maryland needs one of Braxton Dupree, Jerome Burney or Shane Walker to be able to produce something on offense. Burney saw extended time at the end of the game with Gist on the bench and is a solid defensive player who lacks offensive skills. It is odd that neither Burney nor Dino Gregory played at all in the first half yet they were both on the floor at critical moments at the end of the game. Perhaps Gary doesn't trust Walker or Dupree in those situations but if Gregory and Burney are good enough for crunch time why don't they play earlier? Neither gives you much on offense which is why Vasquez scored most of Maryland's points at the end of the game. It will really hamper the Terps if there isn't a serviceable alternative when Osby is struggling.

Give Hampton credit, they are no pushover. They blew Tulsa out of the water on Sunday and gave Maryland all they could handle for most of the game. If their head coach, Kevin Nickleberry, had not lost his marbles in the first half and gotten ejected, resulting in 4 points for Maryland, who knows what would have happened. His game plan was a solid one. He tried to dribble penetrate off high screens to break up Maryland's defense and make the Terps defend for at least 3-4 passes before shooting. His defensive game plan was excellent with a mixture of zone, half court trapping, along with man and full court press. It gave Maryland's guards fits for most of the night and resulted in 10 steals for the Pirates. Maryland settled for jump shots in the first half going 3/12 from 3-point range and played into exactly what Hampton wanted to do on defense. Hampton was very pumped for this game and were certainly not intimidated by Maryland at all. They got away with a very physical, slapping perimeter defense but Maryland's guards never made any adjustments. They are a very skilled team and a nightmare for a four, five or six seed in the NCAA tournament. They were picked to win the MEAC for a good reason.

Still, Maryland should have cruised to a comfortable double digit win if that had simply taken care of the basketball. The lazy passes and careless ball handling was shocking. In the 2nd half the Terps had 4 assists and 12 turnovers while Hampton only had 4 turnovers after halftime. Foul shooting continues to be a bugaboo of this group and it nearly cost them the game as they missed 11 free throws. The fact that Hampton was even worse from the line (13/25) was another factor that helped mitigate the damage of the missed free throws.

The two bright spots: defense and rebounding. Maryland dominated the glass 45-29 for a huge +16 advantage while also adding 20 offensive rebounds. It was a fantastic show on the boards. For the game Hampton shot 41% from the floor and only hit five of twenty-two 3-point attempts. Their defense and rebounding carried them through a poor offensive performance riddled with bad shooting and turnovers. You have to hope that the offense will continue to come around but if you don't play defense well early odds are you'll never be a great defensive team. That is a good sign.


Offense 97.5
Defense 91.4


TerrapinStation said...

Great as per usual ESQ.!!!! I never miss your blog....I was at the Hampton Game and echo everything you said.....I can't help but think what GW will do in any attempt if any to hone in on Vas...in striking the right balance between calming him down and at the same time not taking him out of his "game"......I guess we shall see what Thurs. brings...

Esquire said...

Thanks. For all the other readers, no, this is not my mother.

I think Vasquez is guilty of little more than feeling the burden of being a leader on a young team. He's only a sophomore himself and he's pressing on the court as a result. He needs to calm down a little and I'm guessing that we'll see a change starting tomorrow night. Recall last year he had a pretty bad game at Boston College and followed it up by not even attempting a field goal in 26 minutes against UMKC. He had 8 assists and only 2 turnovers in that game. Point being his isn't selfish. He won't go scoreless against Northeastern.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis. At least most of Vasquez's turnovers come from him trying to make a pass (even if the passes are ill advised) and not from him forcing it into traffic. This was a huge win for the Terps and it will boost RPI bigtime and help come selection time.