Monday, January 07, 2008

Terps hold on

One of the most satisfying wins of the season nearly turned into the most bitter loss as Maryland blew a 20 point 2nd half lead to Charlotte and hung on with a few free throws at the end to come away with a 76-72 win over the 49ers. I didn't get to watch the game since it was being shown on ESPN's hostage channel, ESPNU, so I won't be able to talk about how the team looked. I can look at the box score and go off the observations of my brother who did get to watch the game.

In the 1st half Maryland rode the wave of Greivis Vasquez as he torched the Charlotte defense for 12 points in the last 7 minutes of the half. He had 17 points at the break and helped Maryland build a 15 point halftime advantage. The Terps continued the momentum in the 2nd half and stretched the lead to 21 points with 15 minutes to go in the game. It seems clear that Maryland lost focus and got sloppy with such a large cushion.

Charlotte switched to a triangle-and-two defense that stymied Maryland's offense and turned up the full court pressure and forcing 7 turnovers in the last 15 minutes. The turnovers, along with a lapse in the defense, 12 fouls resulting in 19 free throws by Charlotte, and eleven offensive rebounds helped the 49ers get back in the game.

James Gist had as good a 2nd half as Vasquez had a first half. The senior from Good Counsel high school had 18 points in the half on 6/8 shooting and 5/7 from the free throw line. At times he also dominated Charlotte like Vasquez did in the first half. Hopefully this is another step in the maturation of Gist, who has not seemed ready for the burden he will have this season. In the last game Gist was pulled early with the other starters so his stats look a little less impressive. One encouraging sign is that Gist has taken 15 free throws in the last two games, he had taken 12 total in the previous four games.

It was concerning that Maryland didn't get much from its bench again which contributed just 8 points. Part of that was that outside of Gist and Vasquez the highest number of field goal attempts was six by Bambale Osby. In one sense I don't feel that is a huge problem as I'd rather have the two best players on the team taking the shots when they matter. The lack of bench scoring the the failure of any of the freshmen to assert themselves as viable scoring threats off the bench will probably prevent this team from turning the season around. Shane Walker, Cliff Tucker, Braxton Dupree and Adrian Bowie played a combined 46 minutes and scored a grand total of 2 points. None of them are the dominating defensive players that would allow you to live with that little offensive production.

Boom Osby has had some turnover problems recently and needs to tighten up his ball security. He had five turnovers in 19 minutes while he battled foul trouble the entire 2nd half. He was the only other double digit scorer to go along with Gist and Vasquez. Putting aside the turnovers he was fairly productive in his few minutes.

Charlotte isn't an elite team but they are solid and have been competitive against other clubs, especially at home. This was the 49ers first home loss all season as they had already wins over Wake Forest and Davidson at home. They are a very solid defensive team having a Kenpom ranking of 51st in defensive efficiency and 76th in effective field goal percentage. Maryland still managed to shoot 48% from the floor and a respectable 37% from 3-point range. They were outrebounded by 10 and surrendered 19 offensive rebounds, probably due to Osby's foul trouble and the lack of rebounding by the freshman replacements. The foul shooting in the 2nd half was also shaky (9/16) as Gist and Vasquez both missed foul shots in the closing minutes that kept things close.

I'm not sure this win means this team is better than we think they are but it is a start. If this squad can sustain this performance against Holy Cross then it may be worth reassessing what this team is capable of doing this year. It is worth noting that the last three games the offense has had a 100+ rating, the first time all season, and they scored 75 points or better in each game.

Ratings
Offense: 104.5
Defense: 101.8

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