Monday, December 03, 2007

Veterans let down Terps

It is true that Maryland has a very young team this season. There are six freshmen on the roster and three sophomores in starting positions this year. One of the two seniors, Bambale Osby, is only playing in his second season at Maryland. In this game it wasn't the freshmen who made critical errors or failed to convert a needed basket in the loss to Virginia Commonwealth. In this game it was veterans who couldn't get a basket when Maryland needed it most, who made fatal mistakes and who got thoroughly dominated by VCU's duo of Eric Maynor and Jamal Shuler. Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and James Gist picked a bad time to put together another lackluster BB&T performance in a game that Maryland should have won.

There wasn't anything stunning about this loss, and it really wasn't even an upset as VCU is a very solid team that has struggled this season. Maynor could probably start on half the teams in the ACC and anyone who follows college basketball knows VCU was picked to win the CAA this season. Maryland's awful history in the BB&T (1-6 in the last five seasons) should have made any Maryland fan nervous about this game, though the last time Maryland lost to a team from the CAA Bob Wade was the head coach. As I mentioned VCU has struggled this season and this game was their last opportunity to get a useful out of conference win to add to their resume. It remains to be seen if a win over Maryland will mean anything in March.

Maynor and Shuler combined for 55 of VCU's 85 points, that is about 65% of their total for those that are curious. The rest of VCU's team isn't going to scare anyone and they only managed 8/20 from the floor. Vasquez admitted after the game that it came down to Maynor and Shuler decisively winning the battle over Hayes and himself. Gary Williams tried a slew of different defenses including more zone than I can remember Maryland playing in a long time to try to slow down Shuler and Maynor but nothing really worked. Hayes and Vasquez will never be more than adequate defenders and neither has the lateral quickness to keep a player like Maynor out of the lane. The frontcourt didn't help them much off of the screens VCU was running but it came down to the inability of Maryland's backcourt to get defensive stops. On offense the duo of Hayes and Vasquez went 5/22 from the floor with 10 assists and 8 turnovers. Vasquez's shot selection was questionable again in this game and for the year he is shooting a dreadful 39% from the floor.

Those numbers may skew the totals just a tad but it was clearly the worst defensive performance by the Terps all season. The Rams shot 47% from the floor and 45% from 3-point range while putting up 51 points in the 2nd half after a 34-34 halftime tie. Maryland had the kind of rebounding edge you would expect (+10) with 15 offensive rebounds but in the 2nd half VCU was only out rebounded by two. Maynor had 4 offensive rebounds himself and 8 total. It was very reminiscent of the Virginia losses from last season. Like UVA, the Rams had two players they ran the offense through and had the rest of the team go after offensive rebounds and opportunistic shots.

The offense didn't look much better. Both guards did a terrible job of running the offense. There were only a few passes before the Terps usually settled for a quick shot. It played right into the hands of VCU who wanted to get up and down the floor and not operate in the half court. The ball pressure by VCU really gave Maryland problems. They used a delayed trap press that allowed the big men to release down the floor and then attacked the ball handler with a two man trap. That and poor passing contributed to another near 20 turnover performance. If that continues you may as well get used to another NIT for this group.

While Braxton Dupree got another ceremonial start it was Bambale Osby who was the only Maryland player who had a solid night. He notched another double double with 17 points (career high) and 10 rebounds. He has relentless energy and his 7 points and 5 rebounds in the last five minutes of the game kept Maryland within earshot of VCU. It is a pleasure to watch Osby and if more guys on this team played with his passion and intensity they would be much better.

Cliff Tucker had another solid game with 7 points and 4 rebounds, though he did have a season high 4 turnovers. I wasn't sure why Williams didn't put Tucker and Bowie in the game along with either Hayes or Vasquez and have them guard Maynor and Shuler.

Landon Milbourne had his best offensive performance of the season with 10 points and 5 boards but he still makes way too many mental mistakes.

I expected more from a senior like James Gist. He missed some time after turning his ankle but a 9 point and 8 rebound night against a frontcourt he should dominate was terrible. His production has tailed off lately and he needs to be more of an inside player. He needs to stop taking 3-point shots after only connecting on 3/17 for the year. Maybe later when his inside game develops he can go back to that shot but this team needs him on the low block right now. Not taking fade away jumpers.

It was a disappointing loss because of the way Maryland lost the game, not the level of opponent. The defense, stout all season, evaporated and the guards showed immaturity in not running the offense to get better looks. The trio of Vasquez, Hayes and Gist need to return to the form needed from star players. Morgan State is no pushover on Thursday and could easily beat Maryland if they play as lackluster a game as they did last night. Boston College comes to Comcast a few nights later in a critical ACC opener that the Terps must win.

Maryland could be much better at the end of the season but the next month will probably indicate if they will fulfill their promise.

Offense: 100.1
Defense: 115.4

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