Friday, March 14, 2008

Terps implode

There will be much written and discussed about the fact that Maryland took another double digit lead in a game and still ended up losing last night against Boston College. I wouldn't describe it as a collapse, as it was in the Virginia Tech or Clemson losses, but more as an implosion. Watching Boston College methodically chop away at Maryland's lead and then build a double digit lead of their own was more like watching the controlled demolition of a building. You see the charges blow the support structure out and the floors begin pancaking each other in an orderly succession until there is nothing left but a pile of rubble.

That rubble was the hopes of another NCAA birth for a mercurial and unreliable Terrapin's basketball team. The loss was certainly emblematic of the problems that have plagued this team all season: copious turnovers, the surrender of offensive rebounds, a sputtering offense and a defense that goes missing in the last 10 minutes of the game. Perhaps in the sober light of the next few weeks when the lamentations subside we'll look back on this season and realize that this team wasn't as good as everyone, including me, thought.

The biggest culprit of the season has to be the impotent offense. Since the Florida State win the offense has averaged a 95.3 rating while during the stretch when they went 6-1 in the middle of the season they averaged a 108.9 rating. For some perspective on those numbers 108.9 would put a team just outside the top 50 in the nation this season while 95.3 would rank your offense 275th . The shooting has been decent, Maryland made 51.9% of its field goals last night, but they have turned the ball over too much and failed to get to the free throw line because they settled for jump shots. Maryland has turned the ball over 109 times in the last six games while the opponents have only turned it over 76 times. That is a whopping -33 margin in the turnover battle and that kind of deficit is hard to overcome. In that same six game run Maryland only made 56 free throws while their opponents made 98. That is a 42 point advantage for their opponents in just six games. It isn't the officiating either because when your power forward would rather shoot from 15 feet than down low you won't draw many fouls.

Greivis Vasquez turned the ball over another six times but he wasn't alone as Eric Hayes, James Gist and Boom Osby combined to add in 11 turnovers between the three of them. Vasquez got even more sloppy at the end of the game when Maryland was trying to mount a furious but futile comeback. I thought he actually deferred to his teammates too much last night and finished with only 8 field goal attempts, three of which were in the closing minute. He got some garbage points at the end to finish with 11 to go along with 9 assists and 7 rebounds. He played decent defense on Tyrese Rice for most of the 1st half but when Rice got out in transition in the 2nd half when Maryland started missing shots he diced the transition defense to finish with 19 points. It was a similar problem that Maryland had with Singletary in the previous game. Vasquez is clearly the best player that Gary Williams has on his roster but he is probably better suited to play the two or three position. Hopefully next year either Bobby Maze or Adrian Bowie will allow him to play off the ball more often.

Eric Hayes continued to struggle last night. He has really faded the last four weeks of the season like he also did last year. He did hit a few outside shots on the night but he turned the ball over four times with only one assist in 27 minutes of play. Late in the game he seemed unwilling to take a shot even though he had some decent opportunities. To me it seems like his confidence is shot. Cliff Tucker nearly matched his point total and didn't commit a turnover in 21 minutes. Tucker is still in need of improvement in a number of areas, especially defense, but he was very good at getting some easy transition baskets. I thought Adrian Bowie played well if unspectacular. He had five points, a rebound and a steal in 13 minutes. Bowie and Tucker combined for only one turnover in 34 minutes of play.

Landon Milbourne started off the game on fire offensively. He had five points in the first five minutes of the game but then picked up two dumb fouls in just a couple of minutes and sat on the bench for most of the rest of the half. He was limited to 20 minutes because of that foul trouble. He helped little on the defensive glass, as has been the case for most of the season, and only grabbed 2 rebounds the whole game.

Bambale Osby also started off well but finished with only 5 points and 8 rebounds for the game on 2/6 shooting. He did have 4 blocks and 3 steals but was also in foul trouble during the game though he still played 30 minutes. Boston College isn't a great matchup for Osby but it was reserves like Shamari Spears and Josh Southern that really killed Maryland on the offensive glass. Too often one of those forwards or Corey Raji would grab a key rebound over Maryland's big men. It was kind of sad to see them scurrying out of the lane like a couple of crabs every time BC crashed the boards. That had a ridiculous 21 offensive rebounds which has to be a reflection of who was more motivated to win that game. Sadly it was the team that came in having lost 12 of their last 13, not the team with some slim hope of an NCAA birth still alive.

James Gist had what looked like a good night from the box score. He finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds on 8/15 shooting and added 5 blocks and 4 steals to his total. It was probably one of the more deceptive stat lines of the season. He played well the first 10 minutes or so but then went back to his jump shooting ways in the 2nd half. When Maryland needed him most in the midst of a nip and tuck game he came up short. He missed two of four free throws in the 8 minute stretch when Boston College went ahead by 5 points. He seems to be playing more like a guy who has one foot in the NBA than a guy who is trying to do whatever his team needs him to do to win. He got blocked by John Oats and played virtually no defense nor did he do much boxing out in the last 10 minutes. He had a few scores late in the game when BC was nursing a comfortable margin but that was about it.

Outside of Bowie and Tucker the bench didn't offer much. Shane Walker was a train wreck in the two minutes he played. He turned the ball over and then surrendered a 3-point basket on the other end which was the coup de grace for Maryland as they never lead again. Dave Neal continues to get minutes and produce little for it. He was getting killed so badly on the defensive rebounding front that Williams had no choice but to pull him in the 2nd half. For a guy who has been in shrink wrap for much of the season Jerome Burney didn't do that badly. He had a few gaffs and didn't rebound or defend like you would hope but also had two steals.

I thought it wasn't one of Gary Williams finer coaching jobs but maybe this game indicates that there isn't any miracle working for this group and that all the coaching moves in the world wouldn't save this team from its fate. The closed out the year losing two in a row to two teams with the worst and second worst record in the conference. Maryland was a pathetic 3-3 against the worst three teams in the ACC this year. At least the suspense is gone and Maryland fans can wait to see the NIT selections on Sunday night. Gary Williams indicated that the Terps will play in the NIT because it is an NCAA property now. The season can't end soon enough for me. The staff needs to close the book on this year and go back to the drawing board to fix what ails this team.

Offense: 95.7


Anonymous said...

The sad thing is we, as fans, won't get an explanation as to the mystification of the way this team plays. As frustrating as the 04-05 and 05-06 teams may have been, you knew that they just didn't have the heart or will to win when they needed to. They were a cocky 2 classes after the championship season that thought that everything would be handed to them on a silver platter. This team started strong in most games, came out firing, and then died. I thought Gary did a good job calling quick timeouts last night, sensing that they were blowing it again, and trying to stop BC's momentum. But again, it was futile. I don't know why no one can reach these kids. They are capable of beating the #1 team on the road, but incapable of beating the cellar-dwelling teams in the league. This team was not that good, but in a weak ACC, they were definitely top 4. Why they ended the year this way is something I can't understand. The question is will this continue for the next 2-3 years as the majority of the players stay on.

freestater said...

The building implosion was a nice visual metaphor for the ending of this season. As much as I love Gary Williams, I can't deny that he failed to recruit sufficiently talented players and failed to develop his bench. This team was much less talented than most people, including me, thought. At least there is some good talent coming in next year and that is a reason to be hopeful.