This was a road win that was gift wrapped for Maryland Saturday. They were playing a Virginia Tech squad that is full of freshmen and probably the least talented roster in the ACC. Maryland had a six point halftime lead, which against a team as bad as the Hokies are on offense is more like a double digit lead, and were handling their opponent even though Greivis Vasquez had not hit a single field goal the entire half. Maryland lead the entire second half until the last 12 seconds when Jeff Allen hit a free throw to put the Hokies up by one. Gary Williams called a pick and roll with Vasquez and Gist and Virginia Tech switched with Malcolm Delaney and Deron Washington. With the taller Washington on him Vasquez should have immediately passed to Gist whom Delaney was trying to guard. There is little chance Delaney would have been able to stop Gist from getting a great look at the basket. Instead of driving to the basket and possibly getting fouled, remember Maryland was only down one point at the time, Vasquez heaved a contested 3-point attempt that had little chance. It was an awful decision by the point guard.
So how do you lose a game like this to a team as bad as Virginia Tech? One reason could be that you're just not a very good team. Another reason could be that the team lacks mental discipline. In this case it is a little of both. There isn't much question that Maryland has far more talent than Virginia Tech does. Jeff Allen is probably the only player on the Hokies that would have much of a chance to play for any upper echelon ACC team and even he is very overrated. Maryland isn't worse than Virginia Tech and on a neutral floor or at Maryland this Hokie team probably would have little chance to come away with a victory. Still, Maryland is mediocre enough that they have little margin for error. A team with a good offense would have easily put Virginia Tech away in the 2nd half but Maryland couldn't hit an outside shot to save their lives and their top scorer had only eight points points until the closing minutes.
The offensive production from the bench is so poor and the rest of the starters so inconsistent that this group just doesn't have the firepower to put any decent team away. The only credible wins this year, Charlotte and Illinois, were both nail biters because this team can't score enough to close out a game against any decent competition. This makes any little breakdown something that can end up costing them the game, as in this case.
In some ways it was reminiscent of the Charlotte game. The team got complacent and started giving up offensive rebounds and fouling the opposing team (lazy defense). Virginia Tech shot 24 free throws in the 2nd half and grabbed 11 offensive rebounds resulting in 12 second chance points. It was really the only combination that could have resulted in a win by VPI.
Still, with a five point lead and only 1:46 left you would think Maryland should have been able to shut the door and escape with a win. Instead the defense gave up six straight points, Greivis Vasquez took two dreadful shots that missed and James Gist was stripped by Deron Washington about eight feet from the basket. The game was in the hands of the two best players on the court and both failed.
Vasquez clearly had his worst game of the season. He let himself get caught up with the opposing fans and proceeded to take questionable shots and make poor passes the whole game. He kept chucking 3-pointers even though he couldn't hit anything all afternoon and notched a team high 6 turnovers. His decision to toss up a contested 3-pointer on the last play of the game with Maryland only trailing by one point was ridiculous. I'm sure that Vasquez was devastated by his poor play on Saturday. I doubt anyone would be harder on him than he is on himself. With Eric Hayes out of the lineup tremendous pressure gets placed on his shoulders alone. He could have played much better on Saturday and in many ways the loss was his, but he will win more games for Maryland than his erratic play will cost the team.
James Gist had another decent game just looking at the box score. Sixteen points and seven rebounds sounds pretty good. If you delve a little deeper however it is obvious that Gist couldn't come through when Maryland needed him most. His turnover with the game tied in the closing seconds was the most glaring failure. He passed up a great look at a 3-pointer with Maryland ahead by three and only about 15 seconds left on the shot clock. Instead Vasquez chucked up a poor shot and Gist crashed into Boom Osby and prevented either of them grabbing an easy offensive rebound that would have been two points. Then with the transition defense in disarray Malcolm Delaney hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 66-66. Gist made some good plays in the game but his early defense against Jeff Allen, which included two goal tending calls was poor. There is no way a player like Allen should beat Gist to the basket.
Cliff Tucker had a solid game but wasn't used very much on offense. I am sure with Vasquez struggling Williams may have tried to use the freshman a little more than just three field goal attempts. His floor game (6 assists, 1 turnover, 3 steals) was as good as you could hope for and I doubt even if Eric Hayes had been healthy that he would have done much better.
Adrian Bowie is really starting to come on in the last few games. He gives you solid defense and showed that against a weak defensive backcourt like Virginia Tech that he can produce some points. He finished with a career high 12 points on 6/8 shooting and while he shows some inexperience on offense he should earn some more playing time with his performance.
Shane Walker only played two minutes but produced four points. Braxton Dupree continues his slide into oblivion. He blew an easy layup attempt and failed to play much defense or rebound with any passion. He is playing his way out of the rotation as his minutes continue to decline. Gary Williams will have to get more creative with his lineups or give Shane Walker a longer leash because Osby and Gist continue to get into foul trouble when they are forced to play over 30 minutes each.
If Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg isn't the biggest jackass in the ACC right now I don't know who is. When asked by Maryland's radio program for an interview Greenberg refused saying, "Ask Gus Gilchrist to come on." I understand that Greenberg is under pressure, as every coach in the ACC is every season, but it isn't like Virginia Tech has any winning tradition in basketball or likely ever will. He would have already been canned at most of the ACC schools where they care about basketball. Add this latest blow up regarding Gilchrist with his behavior regarding the Nigel Munson transfer and it is easy to see why Virginia Tech basketball is radioactive in the Washington area these days. He won't have to worry about guys like Gilchirst reniging because no high level recruit will go to play for him from this town. He better start working his old stomping ground in South Florida because the only kids he'll get up here are players like Malcolm Delaney that no other ACC programs wanted. As I have written many times Gilchrist didn't handle the situation very well but who is the adult and who is the 18 year old kid? This kind of thing happens in big time college basektball and if Greenberg can't handle it he should go back to coaching at a level where his lack of talent and composure won't be as glaring. He could take a lesson from Gary Williams who saw 2007 recruit Jeff Jones change his mind and go to rival Virginia. Williams handled it the way a coach with his experience and stature would, he didn't even mention it, and I doubt he'll even bring it up when Virginia comes to town in a couple weeks. He certainly wouldn't embarrass himself the way Greenberg did.
Notice that Gary Williams barely stopped to even shake his hand? Icy doesn't even begin to describe it. Williams is immensely respected by other ACC coaches and the rest of the coaching fraternity so if Greenberg thinks he is doing himself any favors by acting this way he is sorely mistaken. He better watch out because when Virginia Tech comes to Comcast Center it may get ugly.