Thursday, January 31, 2008

Terps shoot their way to win

The Terrapins built an early lead against Virginia based on some hot shooting and lackluster play by the visitors and then hung on in the 2nd half for a critical win to get back to even in the conference. Overall the offense was excellent for most of the game but there were times when Maryland got complacent and started settling for the first jump shot that came along. There were long stretches during both halves when the Terps lacked the patience and experience to work for a good shot. Those periods let Virginia hang around and almost give Maryland a crippling loss.

The defense was a strength for most of the season but has been more porous the last few games. Part of that is that the three teams Maryland has played recently are among the best shooting teams in the ACC. In the last two games the trio of Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne have played most of minutes and the defensive results have been mixed. None of the three are ever going to be great defensive players but in the last two games against athletic wing players they have mostly failed to be mediocre. With Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker playing significant minutes against North Carolina the Tarheels were held to an effective shooting percentage of 42% which was their second lowest output all season. Against Duke and Virginia the numbers were 51.5 and 50.8 which were among the highest any team had shot against Maryland all season. It was only Maryland's superior offensive output that earned the win.

Greivis Vasquez had a very good offensive game, excluding his poor shot selection at times, and finished with 25 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Vasquez only committed one turnover all game and ran the offense fairly well especially in the first ten minutes when Virginia was sticking to their zone defense. His defense in the 2nd half was mediocre at best and his being matched up against Sean Singletary, even with a bad hip, was a total mismatch. He hit enough free throws at the end to seal the game hitting 5 out of 6. I'm not sure he was the MVP of the game even though he was the high scorer but his performance in the 2nd half again proved he is a crunch time performer for this team.

Eric Hayes was good at what he can do well, catch and shoot. He drained a few 3-point shots in the first few minutes when the Terps were slicing up the Virginia zone that helped accrue a lead that they would never relinquish. He had nine assists and only one turnover, helped greatly by the ability of James Gist and Vasquez to finish. If Vasquez had the luxury of passing to another player with the skill set of himself his assist totals would as good or better than Hayes. It was probably as good a game as Gary Williams could get out of Eric Hayes. The paltry 9 turnovers, only two of which were from Vasquez and Hayes, were probably due as much to Virginia's lack of defensive pressure as to great ball handling by the guards. The Cav's Calvin Baker, who is probably at best the third or fourth scoring option for his team, had a good game with Hayes guarding him. The shot blocking ability of Maryland's frontcourt bailed out the guards on dribble penetrations on a number of occasions.

Landon Milbourne had a mixed game. He was able to stay out of foul trouble and played 28 minutes. He had two critical offensive rebounds at the end of the game that were probably the plays that iced the win for Maryland. On the other hand Mamadi Diane embarrassed Milbourne with a baseline drive and dunk towards the end of the game and he needed double teams to help prevent some of the dribble penetrations. He was very efficient on offense scoring 13 points on 4/8 shooting and is showing a better ability to get to the free throw line where his great shooting can help him score. His offensive game has developed nicely over the last few weeks and since the Virginia Tech game he is averaging 11.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game and shooting 52% from the floor. His defensive game is getting better but it has a long way to go.

James Gist had a "quiet" 17 points and 9 rebounds and certainly dominated an over matched Virginia front line. I actually felt that Maryland didn't go to Gist enough, especially in the 2nd half, as he only had 9 field goal attempts even though he played 40 minutes. In the second half Gist got to the foul line to score five points even though the Wahoos tried to deny him the ball. He showed the ability to score from all over the floor and is really playing a very solid floor game recently. In crucial stretches Maryland guards need to look for Gist by showing more patience when the defense is keying on the senior.

Bambale Osby had a better game than his 11 points and 6 rebounds would indicate. He blocked three shots and took a charge playing interior defense and was a real stalwart against Virginia attacking the basket. Foul trouble limited him to 21 minutes but while he was in the game he was a huge presence. He had some critical free throws and an offensive rebound inside the last minute to put the dagger in Virginia's comeback.

Osby and Gist are so good right now that you may not even notice that the bench players for the front line are not providing much of anything. Braxton Dupree made an appearance in the game like Punxsutawney Phil but went to the bench shortly thereafter. Gary blew up at him a number of times for not grabbing rebounds and poor interior defense. The hustle seems to have gone out of him totally. The fact that Dave Neal is playing a major role as a backup should cause concern for any fan. Neal did make a few hustle plays in the game the other night but it may be the weakest front court he'll face all season. Shane Walker made a token appearance and probably deserves a little more run. Maryland will need its bench to step up against the rugged interior of Georgia Tech.

Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker had mixed nights. Tucker made a few mistakes and got yanked rather quick. He finished with only 4 minutes of play. Bowie got the tough assignment of guarding Singletary and he is probably the only guard Maryland has that can stay with Singletary off the dribble. He did a fairly good job because even injured you can't shut down a player with the offensive skills of Virginia's All American. He had several buckets that were impossible to guard.

This team put another case together that it is far from the bumbling inconsistent squad that lost to American at home last month. The next two road games will go a long way to proving that they have really turned a corner. They should have beaten a depleted and wounded Virginia club at home. Going to Georgia Tech and Boston College and coming away with at least one win is imperative. The 2nd half defense has been a tad shaky the last two games as Virginia shot 50% from the floor paired with Duke's offensive blowout of Maryland in the 2nd half of that loss. It is worth noting that Maryland led from tip to horn last night and showed some toughness towards the end with Singletary taking the game over. That is a huge aspect of the maturation of this team, they are significantly tougher than they were at the beginning of the season. That will serve them well in the coming string of road games.

Ratings
Offense: 130.1
Defense: 111.9

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