Monday, January 28, 2008

Terps falter against Duke

Duke was ripe for the taking last night. Maryland thoroughly outplayed the Blue Devils in the 1st half and got to halftime with a nine point lead. Then everything started falling apart. It was more of a slow decline even though Duke came out and scored six straight points to start the final half. The game was tied after about 7 minutes but in the critical moments after that Maryland's defense crumbled and the offense couldn't get anything going. Missing the front end of several critical one-and-one free throws was also fatal.

Overall I think the players did a fairly good job. You couldn't ask much more of James Gist, Boom Osby and Greivis Vasquez. Duke made some great halftime adjustments and their players executed better than Maryland in the last 10 minutes of the game. At the same time I have to say that I feel Gary Williams blew this game. His lineup decisions and substitutions in the 2nd half were atrocious. With Duke dribble penetrating at will in the 2nd half Williams stubbornly stuck to a lineup with Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne, the two worst perimeter defenders on the team. DeMarcus Nelson exploited Milbourne on a number of occasions and Eric Hayes was unable to put any pressure on the ball and extend the defense. I think Williams got too tentative in the critical moments of the 2nd half and refused to put Cliff Tucker or Adrian Bowie in place of both Hayes and Milbourne. He should have because if Maryland had just played a little better defense on the wings they would have walked away a winner.

In the first half Maryland's defense was solid with Tucker and Bowie playing 21 minutes helping to hold Duke to 42% from the field. In the second half Duke shot 53% and Bowie and Tucker played only 9 minutes. Eric Hayes and Milbourne played 32 combined minutes in the 2nd half. Tucker and Bowie made their share of mistakes in the game and they certainly were not perfect but they were very efficient and are far superior ball defenders than either Hayes or Milbourne. In my mind that is what lost the game for Maryland. The offensive rebounds that Williams mentioned in his post game comments were largely the result of Duke penetrating against those two players and drawing help defense. As the defense shifted and Osby came over to defend the penetrations it left the weak side open to offensive rebounds. Milbourne, Hayes and Vasquez did an awful job with weak side rebounding.

Duke pulled James Gist away from the basket on defense and therefore negated his shot blocking ability and limited his rebounds. It was a very savvy strategy by Krzyzewski to spread the floor and gamble that his wing players in Henderson, Nelson and Nolan Smith could beat Hayes, Milbourne and Vasquez on offense. Nelson and Smith combined for 6 offensive rebounds. Henderson was a tough matchup for Vasquez as he is bigger, stronger and more athletic. Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Taylor King were virtual non-factors in this game as they combined to go 4/19.

James Gist had another great game, finishing with 26 points and 5 rebounds. His low rebounding total had as much to do with Krzyzewski's strategy as with Gist having a poor rebounding night. He turned the ball over a few times and missed some free throws he should have hit but it is impossible to assign much blame to the best player on the floor. Duke had no answer for Gist or Osby. Boom had a career night with 20 points and 15 rebounds while tearing up the Duke frontcourt. He also had too many turnovers and missed a few key free throws but as with Gist it is hard to place much of the blame on a player who puts up those numbers.

Greivis Vasquez also had a very solid game with 15 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds. He took a few ill advised shots and was a little careless with the ball but only had two turnovers. You would think with Maryland's three best players having these kinds of games they would have beaten Duke. Eric Hayes was largely ineffective on offense going 2/6 from the floor and scoring 6 points during game action (he got two off of K's technical). This is what Eric Hayes has to offer and it isn't much. It is shocking that after the freshmen had proven they could provide quality depth the last few games that Williams went with Hayes for 35 minutes. If that continues and Williams reverts to the rotations before Hayes injured his ankle it will cost Maryland more games. Some of the turnovers and defensive gaffs by Hayes were embarrassing along with his botching at least two fast breaks that should have resulted in scores. A Hayes, Milbourne and Vasquez trio can put little pressure on the ball as evidenced by the paltry 10 turnovers by Duke on only three steals by the Terps.

Duke plays very aggressive defense on the wing and overplays passing lanes. It was disappointing that Maryland turned the ball over 22 times and part of that was the inability of Hayes to put any pressure on Duke's defense. You have to make an aggressive team like Duke pay for its gambles but Maryland wasn't able to do that. Hayes too often got pushed out away from the 3-point line by his defender and that helped Duke extend the floor and guard against the post players that were killing them. Maybe Hayes isn't healthy yet but then he should not have been playing for 35 minutes. Perhaps I'm being too hard on Hayes but many of his shortcomings are the kind you won't see in the box score the next day.

I'm not sure why Gary Williams chose to play Dave Neal in the 2nd half either. He isn't a great matchup with any Duke players and he blew a wide open layup on a fast break. A shot blocker like Shane Walker would have been more useful with all of Duke's dribble penetrations. He is a player that relies on his smarts and hustle but is too limited athletically to play much in the ACC.

Duke isn't a good matchup for Braxton Dupree but it is worth noting he did not play at all.

In this game Maryland had a huge advantage over Duke's frontcourt and Duke had some mismatches against Maryland's wing players. The team that managed its advantages and weaknesses better was going to win. In the 2nd half Krzyzewski did a better job of that than Gary Williams did and that was the difference. I think Williams is no worse than the second best bench coach in the ACC and you could easily argue he is the best, but last night he bungled the 2nd half and didn't make the critical adjustments Maryland needed to come out a victor.

Maryland has a stretch of opponents coming up that are vulnerable and the next four games will go a long way to deciding what Maryland makes of this season. A wounded and vulnerable Virginia team comes to Comcast on Wednesday and Maryland needs to get back on track by putting away an opponent they should beat.

Offense: 105.2
Defense: 122.8


freestater said...

Excellent points all around. GW's decision to play EH and LM so many minutes in the second half is stupifying. EH was obviously not 100% and would struggle to guard Duke's athletic wing players even when healthy. LM is just a bad matchup against Duke. LM also had 0 rebounds. How does a SF play 20 minutes and have 0 rebounds?

Duke just kept sending wave after wave of Nelson, Henderson and Smith into the lane and GW made no adjustments or substitutions. I also agree that if GW continues to refuse to give Bowie and Tucker significant playing time MD will not make the NCAAs.

homertuck said...

Great job, as always. Being at the game last night, I had many of the same questions you did. It might also be worth noting that the officiating last night was horrible. The refs in that game need to learn what a travel is. There were also other times when Maryland clearly should have had possession and it was awarded to Duke. They also called a very questionable technical on Coach K. Additionally, its important to note that Henderson and Nelson exploded in the 2nd half of that game, in large part because of Duke's great ball movement and Eric Hayes' inability to keep up. I don't think its a coincidence that we held those guys much better in the first half when Bowie and Tucker were out there. The other thing I don't get is that although Tucker Bowie might not score as much as Milbourn and Hayes, Gist and Osby were almost unstoppable so it shouldn't have mattered. And as long as Hayes and Milbourn are hesitant to take shots, I'll gladly give up some offense if it means have better defenders out there. I think Coach K out coached Gary last night. Yet another ACC game this year Maryland should have won. The good thing is that Maryland has been in all of their games this year and should have won them all. We should/could be 5-0 in the ACC right now. But growing pains have made us 2-3. Like you said, Maryland has to get back on track against Virginia and they need to beat Tech, BC and NC State. They should go into their rematch with Duke at 6-3 and have the chance to upset Duke at Cameron to go 7-3. Then FSU and Va. Tech at home, both should be wins, makes you 9-3 going into the Miami game, which will probably be a loss since we can't seem to beat them. 9-4 going into Wake, hopefully a win there makes you 10-4. Maybe a win against Clemson at home is 11-4, but I think we'll lose, so lets say 10-5. Then a game against UVA at UVA - hopefully a win to go 11-5. I think its going to take at least 10-6 if not 11-5 for use to make the NCAA's and the about situation isn't that unfeasible but its not exactly easy either. Maryland needs to keep getting better but I think Gary needs to look at Hayes possibly coming off the bench the rest of the season and having Bowie or Tucker start in his place.

Anonymous said...

Also, one weakness in Gist's and Osby's game is their inability to draw the charge (perhaps because they can block almost anything, they don't bother with taking the charge often). But a couple of drawn charges would have slowed that penetration up some.

Anonymous said...

Nice recap as usual. The one thing that bothered me the most about Hayes last night was when Nelson knocked the ball away near halfcourt, and Hayes half-heartedly tried to retrieve it, while Nelson hustled and was able to get there first and turn it into an easy layup. If Hayes is hurt, then his overall play is understandable, but lack of hustle is never excusable. I was surprised to see that out of Hayes, and hope it was a one-time mental lapse. Although, to his credit, he had a surprisingly high number of assists.

I think 10-6 is enough to get this team into the tournament. It'll be a nice 10-4 streak to end the season, and the committee could possibly overlook the American and Ohio losses in Comcast as a young team, who matured in ACC play. The ACC is fairly weak in my opinion, with no one outside of UNC and Duke who look remotely scary. However, as you said, it all starts with UVA, and that is a highly important game.

Esquire said...

A few comments:

I thought the officiating was spotty. Afterwards K said he deserved the technical but I didn't see it during the game. It wasn't the best crew.

I hate to keep harping on Eric Hayes but he isn't the kind of player you want on the floor for 30 minutes. Unless you play in the Colonial. Maryland doesn't have any guards who are the complete package, Vasquez is the closest thing, so you are always making a trade off. If you look at the ratings the problem yesterday was certainly the defense, not the offense.

In the last 11 minutes Hayes did virtually nothing. With Maryland ahead by three (67-64) Hayes recorded a 3-point basket, one rebound and one foul to the end of the game. His defense was porous and he was unable to get any better shots for his teammates on offense. At least Bowie would have played better defense and been able to drive into the lane. After the botched inbounds play on a bad pass by Vasquez Gary Williams took out Bowie and he never played again. Eric Hayes had 4 turnovers for the game and did nothing the last 10 minutes yet he stayed on the floor. I'm not sure there is any reasonable explanation for that.

Maryland has had some tough luck. They should have won the BC and VT games and then they'd be 4-1. They are better than both those squads. At least only one of those was at home. I do think it is going to be tough for this group to win 10 games in the ACC. They're schedule isn't very tough from here on out so they have a shot to string together a bunch of wins. One big change is that I think this team is a tougher bunch today than last month. I don't see them dropping three games in a row like they did in December. The ACC is really weak this year and some questionable teams may end up with winning records but I think the Terps are more likely to finish around 8-8. That is much better than anyone would have thought after the American game.

James said...

Hayes looked like he didn't go after the ball because his jersey was tugged. It was quick, but just enough to keep him from getting off his feet quickly. I'm pretty sure because I remember I had to watch it 4 times that game.

Not to complain that that should've been a foul - I know that isn't the type of thing you call, *but* with some of the petty things that were called that game, it was frustrating to see the inconsistency.

I don't mind if the game is heavily or lightly whistled - just do it the same all game. And unfortunately some of the most frustrating calls were in the last 10 minutes (mainly that wrongful possession - the last 5 bodies that touched that ball were all Singler's) :)

Officiating wasn't why Maryland lost. It just made a frustrating loss all the more difficult to swallow.