Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Winning ugly is still winning

Gary Williams said after Maryland's 71-64 win over Wake Forest that it wasn't pretty and hinted that this team isn't going to win any beauty contests. If they are going to win it isn't going to be with offensive artistry and sublime one-on-one moves like North Carolina. It will be ugly, plodding affair with plenty of mistakes and bad decision making with a tough defense keeping the Terps in the game. Williams himself seemed to imply that this team will have to make up for its mistakes (and lack of talent?) through better effort. In this era of college basketball you won't get very far by merely trying harder than your opponent. This isn't Hoosiers. You have to have a level of talent to be competitive night in and night out or be very experienced.

The entire season must have been flashing before the eyes of most Maryland fans in the first few minutes. Wake Forest came out swinging and got up on the Terps 7-0 and then 13-4 to start the game. The starters seemed to be sleepwalking through the first few minutes and it wasn't until Adrian Bowie and Boom Osby got in the game that things started to turn around. Maryland then went on a 13-1 run, helped by some really horrible shot selection by Wake Forest, to tie the game at the 11 minute mark. The Terps never trailed again.

Sometime in the future someone may look at the box score to see Greivis Vasquez had 22 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds and think he must have been the difference. They may not notice that he also had 8 turnovers and you had to watch the game to see that he played as dreadful a floor game as he did against Virginia Tech. To be fair he did shoot the ball better from inside the 3-point line and his 2nd half scoring helped insure that Maryland would not blow their lead like they did on Saturday. To some degree his scoring was negated by his ridiculous shot selection and sloppy passing. He helped Wake Forest get back into the game with some of his mistakes. With Eric Hayes out I do think that Vasquez is really pressing to make plays. If only to help Vasquez get under control it will be helpful to get Hayes back in the lineup. Hayes may not make as many mistakes as Vasquez but he also isn't as good a defender nor is he able to put the pressure on a defense that Vasquez can. I think Gary Williams needs to use substitutions to get Vasquez to settle down a little better.

Adrian Bowie got lots of praise for his performance off the bench in the game. He was a defensive force with three steals, scored 10 points and grabbed an amazing 8 rebounds. He also limited his turnovers which has been one of his problems this year. He is really starting to improve rapidly and is becoming a real asset off the bench. The injury to Eric Hayes may be a blessing because it is forcing Gary Williams to play some of the young guards. This will make the team better before the end of the season and certainly helps for next year. Bowie has the ability to pressure the ball on defense and break down the opposing defense with dribble penetrations. He seemed in the right place all throughout the game and whenever there was a loss ball or rebound he seemed there to grab it.

Bambale Osby started the game on the bench due to disciplinary infraction. He quickly replaced the ineffective Braxton Dupree and had a fantastic game. He had his second straight double-double in ACC play with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He also recorded 4 blocks and really frustrated Wake Forest in the lane. Most encouraging is that he didn't have a single turnover in 32 minutes. He was the workhorse in the win last night. On a night when James Gist was settling for jump shots which were not falling Osby provided the inside scoring that Maryland needed.

Lost in the great games by Osby and Bowie forward Landon Milbourne had himself a quietly effective night. He finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds despite foul trouble. Milbourne was aggressive on offense and played a little bit better on the defensive end, he just needs to stop fouling. His outside shot was working too as he hit two 3-pointers and nearly grabbed a few offensive rebounds off missed foul shots. His play was a key that got lost with some of the other performances.

Shane Walker played some spot minutes and had a few nice defensive plays while rebounding well. As I said Braxton Dupree continued his slide into Travis Garrison territory.

Cliff Tucker struggled a little but I'm not sure I understand why Gary Williams had walk on Jason McAlpin in the game during crucial stretches of the 2nd half. With a decent lead Williams took out Bowie and put in McAlpin. What followed was a string of turnovers and poor defense that saw Wake Forest score seven points in about a minute. I think it was a huge coaching blunder by Gary Williams. Tucker only played 4 minutes in the second half and I'm sure there was some issue of defense or effort that Williams had a problem with but it seems pretty crazy to jeopardize a victory to make a point by playing Jason McAlpin. I thought overall Williams really struggled with some of his substitutions last night and made some questionable decisions. Not his best game from the bench this year.

Wake Forest got a bunch of offensive rebounds and it continues to be a real problem for this team. The Deacons are young and talented, James Johnson may be as good a total package as their is among freshmen in the ACC, but their inexperience killed them in this game. They could have stole a road win had they played with a little more poise but their poor shot selection (5/30 from 3-point range) and Maryland's defense prevented that outcome.

Going down to North Carolina 1-2 is much different than going down there 0-3. I'm not sure a win changes the forecast for this team as I still see them as a five or six win team in the league. They have squandered chances in very winnable games and now have a tough three game stretch against UNC, Duke and Virginia. At least two of those games are at home. If they can pull off an upset they may make things interesting towards the midpoint of the season.

I'll be down in Chapel Hill for the game on Saturday. Let's hope it is more competitive than the last few visits to the Dean Dome.

Offense: 96.7
Defense: 82.8


Anonymous said...

That's awesome you got to go to the game! Keep up the great blogs!

jeff from

Esquire said...

Thanks, Jeff. You do the same.