Thursday, February 14, 2008

Same result, different game

Duke used a slightly different method than they did in College Park but produced the same efficient and convincing win over Maryland. Though Maryland got to within two points with just under eight minutes left the game really wasn't as close as the score indicated. Without a stretch of dreadful shooting by Duke, something they have done in a number of games with a large lead, they would have cruised to any easy victory. From the opening minutes it was clear that the Terps would not be able to execute the game plan that Gary Williams wanted them to and when that didn't happen the coach again failed to respond by switching his rotation.

It was a strange kind of game, very fast paced but a defensive struggle. The pace was around 78 possessions which is break neck speed but Duke only managed a 77 points and Maryland a paltry 65. Besides Duke scorching Maryland's perimeter defense with 12 3-point baskets the Blue Devils didn't shoot all that great only managing 39.7% for the game. Maryland shot only slightly better at 40.9% but Duke managed to sink 19 free throws compared to the Terp's 8. Add in the 3-point baskets and Maryland's turnover problems and that pretty much sealed the win for Duke.

In the 1st half Maryland didn't make good decisions on the offensive end and often settled for the first jump shot that was available. Give Duke credit for trying to neutralize Gist and Osby but the guards did not do a good enough job getting either of them the ball. James Gist came in averaging over 22 points a game recently and only took six field goal attempts in the half. Two of those were off an offensive rebound that he grabbed. In the context of the offense he only had four shots the entire half. To help Duke by not working to get Gist some opportunity was unfathomable. Gist did struggle on defense but many of Kyle Singler's points were off dribble penetrations or rebounds where the defense scattered.

After halftime Duke went cold from the floor and Maryland was able to scrape back into the game and cut it to two points. When they got in striking distance Dave Neal and Landon Milbourne both blew what should have been easy baskets. There were also two fast breaks that should have been points for Maryland that ended up with nothing. One should have perhaps been a foul on Duke but the other Vasquez just threw the ball away. Towards the end Duke followed the same script they had in College Park. The spread Maryland out and started dribble penetrations. Over the course of the game Duke had very little success on the inside. A number of their shots were blocked by Osby and they had little ability to finish around the basket in the 2nd half. Unfortunately for the Terps when they collapsed the shooters on the perimeter had some wide open looks.

At the end Gary Williams had the same bizarre scenario that he had at Comcast. He had James Gist guarding Jon Scheyer which is a terrible mismatch for Gist. Instead of pulling Landon Milbourne off of Gerald Henderson (who was totally ineffective) and switching him to Scheyer he left Gist on the smaller, quicker guard who scored 6 points in the closing minutes. Once again Gary Williams was bested by the tactics of Krzyzewski and failed to change his rotation to minimize some of the mismatches. Heaven forbid he subs in Cliff Tucker or Adrian Bowie for defense. Bowie had given up a couple of 3-point baskets to Greg Paulus in the 1st half and was never seen again. Until Williams gets more confidence in his bench this will continue to be a problem for Maryland. He left the starters in the game for the last seven minutes and because of mismatches or fatigue they were outscored 18-8 as a unit.

On a night when Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne were largely ineffective it would have made sense to substitute more for either of them. The loss was not only their fault, Vasquez and Gist also struggled, but when those two go 3/13 from the floor and commit 6 turnovers while playing 67 minutes. Neither was a defensive stalwart on the night. Meanwhile Bowie and Tucker had 4 points and 5 rebounds in just 13 minutes of play. In this game Maryland didn't get any offensive benefit to playing Hayes and Milbourne over 30 minutes each as they combined for 7 points. It is hard to get much production from your bench when you don't play them. If Williams doesn't change his habits and keeps getting tunnel vision in regards to his bench it may just cost Maryland an NCAA bid.

Greivis Vasquez got too caught up in the drama of the game and started letting his emotions get the better of his judgment. He had to be warned by the official to stop taunting the crowd and afterwards DeMarcus Nelson indicated that Vasquez was acting like Cameron was "his place" and as if it was "more about him than about [Maryland]" which may have some merit. I think Vasquez lost confidence in some of his teammates and started trying to win the game himself. He continued to take ill advised 3-point shots and often failed to get the team running its offense. He also scored 25 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and had 7 assists and you can't really blame him for giving up on Hayes and Milbourne who were having dreadful games. Vasquez is such an integral part of Maryland's offense it is obvious when he is struggling to run it. He needs to learn to be more patient and trust the offense to work.

Maryland only had 11 assists but 19 turnovers resulting in 31 points by Duke. That gives you an idea that the offense wasn't running well. It would explain the wretched 83.0 rating on offense which is the lowest since the abysmal Ohio loss in December. The whole team seemed tight and nervous from the start and the numbers probably don't tell the story of how poorly the team flopped last night in their last big test of the regular season.

Duke is a great team and they deserve much credit. They forced Maryland to do some things that no other team has been able to do recently. They had a great game plan and executed it very well. Maryland should have been more competitive and I was disappointed that Gary Williams didn't make better adjustments.

Now the Terps have two home games against teams they should beat. It gives them a chance to shore up their NCAA resume before the final four games, three of which are on the road. If they lose one of the next two their NCAA chances would suddenly be in doubt. Their position is probably more precarious than it seems at the moment. They need to keep winning and a home loss to two NIT level teams would be devastating. The good news is there isn't a game left on the schedule that this team doesn't have a good chance of winning.

Offense: 83.0
Defense: 101.3


Jeremy said...

You make a lot of good points, although I think you're being a bit harsh overall. The two games vs Maryland are the biggest challenges Duke has faced since losing to Pitt, even though the Terps really don't match up that well with them this year. I would credit our interior defense for Duke's inside shooting struggles, although the Terps' approach opened the door for Singler's wide open threes.

I do agree that I'd like to see more of a rotation (but no additional servings of Dave Neal, please). Admittedly though, Bowie looked like a dazed freshman trying to guard Paulus, whereas EH and GV at least did a credible job on him. I'm REALLY excited about Walker's potential, esp. if he can hit that 15-footer. Actually, I think Bobby Maze will really help us in these kind of matchups, he is reportedly great at moving the ball both quickly and under control and has a nice pullup jumper.

Anonymous said...

nice analysis
coach K is second only to skinner at bc in shaping his game plan to his talent.
can't stand coach K or dewk, but have to give them their due.
just as GW outcoached Roy, coach K outcoached GW.

let's get on with making the dance.

Anonymous said...

I typically enjoy your reviews, but I don't get the love affair with Vazquez. Yes, he's a great player. Yes, he has a lot of energy. But how can you massage his game by saying "he had no confidence in his teammates," when it should be "he wanted to win the game all by himself?" He's no Gilchrist, but he's a shoot-first, me-first point guard in big games. You say Gist had a rough game, but then say he didn't take enough shots. That's because Vazquez barely gave him the ball. In the second half, there must have been a stretch of 8 of 10 plays where Vazquez did not give the ball up at all during the possession.

Esquire said...

I don't think I "massaged" his game at all. I wrote that he got caught up in the moment, tried to win the game by himself and took too many ill advised shots. I also wrote that the guards (that includes Vasquez) didn't do a good enough job getting Gist the ball. Gist's defense may have been the worst part of his game against Duke.

Let's be clear, not only is Vasquez not John Gilchrist in selfishness, but he is already better than Gilchrist ever was at Maryland. The Gilchrist iconography is based on three games in the ACC Tournament and not much else. Examine his stats in ACC games and compare them to Greivis.

In the "big" games this ACC season he had 11 assists against UNC and 7 in each game against Duke. Since the UNC game he has averaged 8.6 assists. I'm not sure that is characteristic of a shoot first, me first point guard.

For the game the rest of the team shot 16/44 while Vasquez was 11/22, even with some dumb 3-point attempts. During the stretch where Maryland got the game down to 2 points from double digits he scored 8 points (on 4/7 shooting) with 2 assists. In the 2nd half he went 7/14 from the floor with 15 points and 4 assists. He would have had a few more assists if Milbourne and Dave Neal had not blown easy layups.

His game wasn't flawless but he was hardly the reason why Maryland lost. When Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne shoot 3/13 with 6 turnovers and one assist I think there are better scapegoats if you are looking for them.