Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Terps make in four in a row

I am hesitant to even suggest this but might this team be finding its stride in January? They haven't faced an imposing group of opponents but this squad has looked much more confident and efficient in the last four wins than they have looked all season. Holy Cross was undermanned last night and was missing two of its better players but Maryland also had to go without starter Eric Hayes, who had sprained an ankle in practice. After the first few minutes Maryland was never threatened in the game and Holy Cross only made four field goals the entire 1st half. Tim Clifford, the 6-11 senior center for the Crusaders, was harassed and harried by the Terrapins shot blockers and went 6/20 from the floor.

Senior James Gist has resurrected his, and possibly this team's, season over the last few games. Since the Delaware game the forward is averaging 19.5 points, 8.75 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per contest. He is shooting 56.3% from the floor and 84% from the free throw line in those games. He is also showing much more intensity and leadership in the last few games than he ever has in his career. He seemed to recognize that he hadn't fulfilled his responsibility as a senior leader in recent comments to the media. He is playing at a 1st team All-ACC level the last few contests but with ACC play starting we'll see if he can continue it.

Greivis Vasquez has settled down a little and is playing his best basketball of the season. Much of that has to do with his outside shot coming around. His shot selection is much better and over the last five games he has hit 60% (18/30) of his 3-point attempts. With a reliable outside shot Vasquez is much more dangerous and Maryland's offense is obviously more potent. Over that same period he is averaging 20 points, 5.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. He is also playing smarter defense and not getting himself into foul trouble. He and Gary Williams shared a laugh when he came off the floor late in the game. Far from being the player holding this team back he and Gist are the only two capable of carrying this team to the NCAAs. He is currently playing the way many fans hoped he would going into the season. Is there any guard in the ACC who combines scoring, assists, free throw shooting, and is equally effective at point or shooting guard like Vasquez?

Cliff Tucker got the start for the injured Eric Hayes and the offense didn't miss a beat. Tucker showed his nice mid-range game and floor savvy in scoring 10 points, dishing 4 assists and grabbing 4 steals without a single turnover. He had a number of sweet passes on the fast break, including a great cross court bounce pass, for easy scores. He compliments Vasquez very well on the floor and adds an element of athleticism that Eric Hayes doesn't possess. Tucker's current weakness seems to be his foul shooting which is an inexplicable 44%. Expect him to get more playing time.

Landon Milbourne showed some intensity that had been missing earlier in the season. Though he only made one field goal he still scored 12 points mostly off of foul shots. His aggressiveness in going to basket helped him draw fouls and his excellent free throw shooting is a plus for a team that doesn't get to the line enough. Landon is still not a good position defender and he was beaten off the dribble a few times but he recovered and had several fearsome blocks. He only turned the ball over once and had 2 steals to go along with 4 blocks. This is exactly the kind of game the team needs from the struggling sophomore.

Bambale Osby struggled through a wretched night. He had as many turnovers and missed free throws (eight) as points and rebounds. Osby seems to be pressing a little lately. He was in some foul trouble which limited him to only 15 minutes of play. The size of Clifford was a problem for Osby as he could not use his bulk to defend the larger opponent. His turnovers the last few games have been out of control and he is averaging about three and a half turnovers per games since the BC loss. His free throw shooting was the obvious tip off to me that Boom is struggling a little. He had made 10/13 prior to missing all five attempts against Holy Cross.

His struggles would be less concerning if Braxton Dupree was doing anything worth noting. The freshman has scored a grand total of 6 points during the recent winning streak. Maryland doesn't need him to score in double digits every night but he has also looked lost on defense and his rebounding has been atrocious. Many of the offensive rebounds Holy Cross grabbed were while Dupree was in the game. Given the expectations around him he has been a huge disappointment so far.

Adrian Bowie played more than he has all season. On defense Bowie is solid and does the best job of challenging the opposing point guard of any guard on the team. He gets into trouble when he tries to do too much on offense. He gets himself into trouble driving in the lane with nowhere to go. Bowie needs to understand better how he can contribute to the team, with defense and steady complementary guard play. They don't need him to be a turnover prone playmaker.

Gary Williams was able to empty the bench a little and even Jason McAlpin got nine minutes of playing time. I'm not sure what is going on with Jerome Burney. Maryland could have used his rebounding as Holy Cross crashed the offensive boards to the tune of 24 rebounds. It was a major weakness in this game.

The other weakness was foul shooting as they shot only 61% from the line. Most of that was due to misses by Dupree, Osby and Tucker.

The defense was outstanding again as Maryland limited Holy Cross to 15% from 3-point range and 27% from the floor. It doesn't get much better. Well it could if you added 12 blocks and 11 steals and 24 turnovers to that sterling field goal defense.

This team is in a very good position going to Virginia Tech. The game won't be easy but Maryland has significant advantages in experience at critical positions. Once again Gist and Vasquez need to be at the top of their game. It appears that Hayes may miss another start with his ankle and against a young Hokie backcourt Tucker's athletic ability may be an advantage.

I thought the yellow uniforms looked sweet. The all black the Terps wore for the ACC tournament game against Miami last season were dreadful. Since they won the other night I expect to see the yellow again this season.

Offense: 108.4
Defense: 69.4

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