Monday, February 04, 2008

Terps gathering postseason steam

Maryland should have won in comfortable fashion against Georgia Tech but a furious series of comebacks by the Yellow Jackets turned the last few minutes of the game into a nip and tuck affair. It was another indication that this team has become much tougher than it was in the early part of the season. On the road against a tough team this team held it together in the closing minutes and made enough plays to come away with a win. Besides a one point loss at Virginia Tech that this team should have taken they have won the last three road games at Charlotte, North Carolina and Georgia Tech. That is a very good sign. With at least three road games that should be in play the rest of the year (Boston College, Virginia, Wake Forest) the Terps will need to take a couple of those.

Maryland jumped out to an early lead, those slow starts seem to be a thing of the past for now, and held on for a 10 point halftime advantage. Boom Osby was just a monster on the boards in the first half. Georgia Tech doesn't have a stout defense but does have a few credible post players in Jeremis Smith, Gani Lawal and Alade Aminu. Osby scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the 1st half alone. He even had a few nice half hooks to add to his repituare. You may not realize it bu Osby is shooting 77.5% from the free throw line in ACC play with 40 attempts. He had another double-double for his fourth in ACC games and sixth overall. He is a legitimate All-ACC candidate at this point in the season. In the second half his only problem was that his teammates were not able to get him the ball. He only took one field goal the entire 13 minutes he played in the 2nd half. Whatever happens the rest of the season Maryland fans should savor the play of this unlikely hero in Osby.

James Gist had a very solid 14 points and 9 rebounds. He wasn't a significant option in the 1st half with Osby and Landon Milbourne providing most of the offensive punch. Gist is giving consistent performances and is showing more leadership and aggressiveness. There were a number of times he was fouled but nothing was called. Gist and Osby are forming the best front court tandem in the ACC right now.

Landon Milbourne had perhaps his best game as a Terrapin with 16 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists. He is starting to take advantage of his athletic ability and his dunk and block in the closing minutes showed that he is starting to become a reliable option late in a close game. As I've written before his emergence has made Maryland's offense much more potent.

Greivis Vasquez had a pretty poor game. He had 13 points and 9 assists but also had 8 turnovers along with some really terrible shot selection. His 3-point shooting was terrible and he forced things on offense way too often. He went 5/15 from the floor and only hit 50% of his free throws including two critical misses in the final moments of the game. If Bambale Osby had not hit two free throws with 17 seconds left the game may have been forced to overtime after Vasquez missed two in a row and Eric Hayes missed the front end of a one-in-one. It was the kind of dreadful game that you have to live with when it comes to Greivis.

Eric Hayes had a good game with 14 points and 8 assists and hit 2/4 3-point shots. Georgia Tech didn't have the ability to exploit Maryland's sometime weak perimeter defense so Hayes' problems there were not exploited as much. Maryland did have some problems when the Yellow Jackets got out in transition and pushed the ball up the floor after Maryland misses. Paul Hewitt knew that their half court offense wasn't working well and knew they had to push the ball to try for easy scores. The big men and guards for the Terps did a poor job of getting back and stopping the athletic Georgia Tech big men from getting quick outlet passes down the lane.

Once again Hayes and Vasquez played way too many minutes in this game. Hayes played 36 minutes and Vasquez played 37 minutes. That is just too much and it nearly cost Maryland this game like the Duke loss last week. Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie only scored 12 points in just 13 minutes of play with only one turnover, yet they only played two and three minutes each in the 2nd half. Bowie had a clutch 3-pointer with 10 minutes left in the game that pushed the lead back to six points. Gary Williams has paid lip service to reducing the minutes by Vasquez and Hayes but he has not seriously committed to it. As soon as the game gets a little tight he tends to pull his freshmen and go for long stretches with his starters. It will cost this team at some point in the near future if he doesn't do a better job managing the rotation.

I don't understand Gary's obsession with playing Dave Neal. With Osby in some foul trouble he put Dave Neal in the game and he proceeded to commit two fouls and two turnovers in just 7 minutes of play. He simply wasn't a good matchup for Zach Peacock who even I knew was a decent outside shooter. His simply shot right over Neal with 1:45 left in the game to cut the lead to three and then James Gist had to switch on Peacock when Neal wasn't quick enough to get out on him and fouled Peacock for three foul shots. He wasn't a good matchup for any player on Georgia Tech. The fact that Neal is out on the floor probably says more about what Williams thinks about Shane Walker and Braxton Dupree than about Dave Neal being a good bench option. I don't even know what the mystery behind Jerome Burney and Dino Gregory not playing could be at this point. Gary alluded to issues of poor practice on the radio but who knows what might be the reason for that.

The shooting was very good (55%) and the offense sliced apart Georgia Tech's defense with great ball movement in the first half. The defense was once again a little under par and has not been as stellar in the last few weeks as it was earlier in the season. The turnovers were awful. Georgia Tech forced 24 turnovers on 13 steals and scored 25 points off Maryland's miscues. Hayes, Osby and Vasquez accounted for 16 of the 24 turnovers. This will come back to haunt Maryland if they don't take better care of the ball.

Next up, revenge for the Luckie game!

Offense: 107.3
Defense: 107.0


Anonymous said...

Another great write-up, keep 'em coming--I read them religiously after our games.

I think you're being a little hard on Greivis, who had a very poor shooting game, but otherwise seemed in control. A lot of the turnovers were due to the bigs fumbling them or to miscommunications.

Any comment on the refs in this game? I thought they were dismal.

bigchunker said...

It's obvious you have a serious bone to pick with Hayes. Having read your last three posts, it's a wonder this kid even has a scholarship. Because he doesn't "look" like he is tenacious and mean doesn't mean he can't play. You even pick on his defense in the Georgia Tech game after he shut down their hot player, Causey (sp?), who had been averaging over 20 points a game his last three ACC contests. Hayes might not have the quickest feet on earth, but he obviously understands the game and positions himself well to play good team defense. He blocked Causey's shot twice and constantly helps in transition and when the bigs need a hand down low.

On the offensive end, Hayes scored three times in the second half after Georgia Tech had cut the lead to two. You only point out that he missed the front end of a one and one (I'll give you that as he was obviously nervous coming up short on it) and that he, Osby and Vasquez combined for 16 turnovers. Well, Hayes accounted for just three of those and had 8 assists to go along with them. That's an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost 3-1. He is second in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio and has a lot more assists than the leader in that catagory.

Open your mind. All five starters are contributing to the current successes of this team. I think Bowie and Tucker should get more run as well. However, not one player on the team has the basketball IQ that Hayes has and he will be needed as the team continues their push to post-season play.

Esquire said...

I've put forth a defense of Greivis when he was getting a great deal of heat from some Maryland fans early in the season. Now that we're in February the turnovers and poor shot selection have to stop. Maryland is still on very thin ice regarding its NCAA chances and this team cannot have 20+ turnovers a game and not take some crippling losses. Vasquez has taken 136 3-point shots which is more than 40 over the next highest player on the team even though he is only shooting 31% from behind the arc. He is a great player but he needs to improve his decision making and it isn't just the turnovers. He also missed three critical free throws at the end of the game. If he had played better Maryland would have probably won comfortably. Overall he has played very well the last month.

The officials had a pretty poor game. They were letting all kinds of contact go and there were a few times James Gist nearly got clothes lined going up for a dunk and nothing was called. Not one of the better efforts by officials but games against Georgia Tech usually turn into fairly physical battles. I felt the calls were inconsistent as well.

I know some people would think I was harping on Eric Hayes a little too much. Maryland does need him down the stretch and his steady play at the point guard has helped the offense improve over the last few weeks. The improved play of Landon Milbourne, James Gist and Boom Osby has been mostly the reason for that but Hayes has played a modest role in the more potent offense.

My point is not that Hayes should not be playing, but that he should be spelled by Adrian Bowie and Tucker more often. If Eric Hayes and Vasquez are playing 30+ minutes per game for the rest of the year Maryland will not make the NCAA tournament. They will both run out of gas much like Hayes did at the end of last season without playing this level of minutes. Hayes has his flaws just like most of the other players on the team. I don't give other players a pass on their flaws either.

Let me just give you some observations. In the games Maryland has played since Eric Hayes started playing over 30 minutes the defense has been much worse than it was when he was out.

In the games he played the opponents have an offensive rating of 111.7 and have an effective field goal rate of 51%.

In the games he missed, with Bowie and Tucker picking up his minutes, the opponents rating was 89.3 and 39.6% effective field goal rate.

The teams he played against were much better offensively than the teams he missed with his ankle injuries to be sure but those are concerning numbers. In the 2nd halves of games against Duke and Virginia when Hayes, Vasquez and Milbourne played most of the minutes Maryland gave up 93 points on 52% shooting. Perhaps you think that is just a coincidence but I don't.

You are right that Hayes blocked Causey twice but there were also a number of times that Causey drove by him and caused Maryland's defense to adjust. It isn't always a simple case of a players defensive assignment doing the scoring. His breakdown resulted in a score by another player but it was his responsibility. Causey was a decent matchup for Hayes but just wait till Maryland plays Florida State, Duke or Clemson. He will get exploited. He played 69 minutes the last two games and only recorded one foul. You can't play good defense with that kind of ratio.

As I wrote I think Hayes has useful skills but defense isn't one of them. Gary needs to do a better job of managing his deficiencies and taking advantage of his strengths.

As for his assists I think Hayes gets credit for baskets that he didn't have much to do with. For instance he got credit for an assist on Adrian Bowie's 3-point basket yet he really didn't do anything, it was Bowie who made the play.

bigchunker said...

Offensive and defensive stats can be misleading. I don't like the stat that this team has the best team defense because they are allowing only 62 points a game. Well, when they are scoring 65 a game what are we saying? Maryland's offense has really picked up lately. There are a lot more possessions per game and a lot more transition baskets being scored. Therefore, both their offensive and defensive numbers have increased.

Yes, Bowie hit a three for an easy assist for Hayes. I think that Hayes is the only guard in the country that gets an occasional gimme assist from a player hitting an open shot. How about the fact that he got the ball to Bowie so that he could hit the open jumper? I remember the shot but not the pass. There are plenty of times that guys don't get the ball in position to shoot, so getting a shooter in position to shoot may be easy, but it is critical.

Just think of all those useless assists Hayes and Vasquez would have had earlier in the year if Gist and Osby had been able to finish inside. Ty Lawson doesn't deserve his assists because he has guys on his team that finish easily. Please, it's obvious you have "issues" with Hayes. Modest role in the offense versus Osby's big role in the offense from Saturday...let's see, Osby had 18 points, 1 assist and 5 turnovers while Hayes's modest line was 14 points, 8 assists and 3 turnovers. I love Boom. I'm just pointing out the fallacy of your statement. I don't think we win without Boom's 16 in the first half because I don't think we have anyone on the bench that would have filled in adequately. However, I don't think we win without Hayes on Saturday as well. As I said, I believe the team is playing well. I also said Bowie and Tucker deserve more minutes, but I believe I see the complete games of the players and appreciate what each brings to the game. For some reason you have your favorites and are unable to appreciate what all players contribute.

Esquire said...

I've always felt that assists are one of the least useful statistics in basketball. I'm afraid your sarcasm didn't do much to sway my opinion. There are also plenty of turnovers that get credited to big men because they can't handle a poor pass from a guard. There is an interesting article on the fudge factor in assists on the Basketball Prospectus website. I recommend it.

A guard like Lawson who plays with one of the best finishers in college basketball is going to benefit from it. Steve Blake benefited from having great offensive players around him as well. You have to account for those things when you look at assists because the nature of the statistic is dependent on the play of a teammate. There is no other basketball stat like that.

I don't think you understand the statistics that I mentioned. The efficiency ratings do not depend on how many possession a team has during a game. Those numbers are points per 100 possessions. If you play a game like Georgia Tech where each team has 80 possessions or you play a game against Virginia Tech where each team has 65 possessions that doesn't effect the ratings. They are comparable regardless of the pace of the game. That is why people like Dean Oliver created rating formulas.

I'm not sure what else you would like me to say. I indicated Hayes had a "good" game. He played a role in the win but he was hardly the MVP. Too many fans project things onto Hayes because he isn't as maddening as Vasquez. He doesn't make as many mistakes and doesn't make as many plays. That doesn't mean he is a better player.

As to your Osby and Hayes comparison your premise is not correct. I never said Maryland would have won without Hayes. If you think that 18 points and 11 rebounds is equivalent to what Hayes contributed then I doubt we'll ever agree on much. It was Osby who bailed Hayes out when he missed the one-and-one by being fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound.

I've been critical of every starter when they have not played well. I've commented on Vasquez's assorted problems, Osby's foul shooting and turnovers, Milbourne's poor defense and turnovers, Gist's propensity to disappear in games and so on. My harshest critiques have been in regards to players I like the most. If Eric Hayes turns into Steve Blake I'll be happy. I only care about the Terps winning. It seems to me that you have a sore spot for my criticisms of Hayes. I'm sorry if you feel it was excessive.

If there were credible alternatives to Gist and Osby I'd advocate them playing more when either of them struggle. I think Tucker and Bowie are credible substitutes to Hayes and Vasquez for short periods during the game. I don't think Hayes or Vasquez are so great they must play 35 minutes a game.

Hayes is a good spot up jump shooter, he is fairly steady ball handler, he plays a crafty floor game and he understands how to run the offense. Hopefully we can agree on those things.

Anonymous said...

Esquire, You must have missed the last few games. Offensively, Hayes is growing into something more than a spot up jump shooter. He won't be mistaken for Tony Parker, but the kids 'craftiness' is producing points.

Esquire said...

Hayes has been scoring better, along with all the other starters. He even got an offensive rebound and put back against Georgia Tech, his first offensive rebound in ACC play. Teams are keying on Osby and Gist and that has opened up some outside shots the last few weeks. Hayes and Milbourne are taking advantage even if Vasquez is back in a wicked shooting funk. This team certainly needs Hayes to knock down those 3-point shots and in that regard he has been very valuable.

Hayes can score in other ways but he is mostly a jump shooter at the moment. Over 58% (23/39) of his field goal attempts in ACC play are from 3-point range which is more skewed than Mike Jones was last season. In addition he has only taken 9 free throws in ACC play some of which were the result of intentional end of game fouling by the opponent. Those stats suggest a player who is predominantly a jump shooter. Hayes is pretty good at that so it isn't a bad thing.

I obviously don't think Hayes is as important a player as some of you do, but that is fine. I don't expect everyone to see things the way I do. I think Hayes can be a nice player but not at an All-ACC level. Right now we have three other players who have a strong chance to be All-ACC honorees and I choose to give them most of the credit.

To give him the benefit of the doubt let's assume his ankle is still not 100% healed and that has accounted for some of his defensive struggles. Let's keep an eye on how he does the rest of the year.

freestater said...

It seems to me that those people who are claiming esquire has something against Hayes should instead examine their own bias. Esquire has said several times that Hayes had a good game against GT. Was it especially noteworthy considering the fact that all starters scored in double figures? Of course not. Maryland fans need to understand something, Hayes is NOT Steve Blake and never will be. He is a solid ballhandler who makes few mistakes. Overall, his offense is average to slightly above average for an ACC starter. While his is a good spot up shooter, he can't dribble penetrate or create seperation on his own. His defense is below average. Trying to characterize Hayes as something other than that smacks of homerism.