Monday, March 03, 2008

Tigers sour Senior Night

Game over, man. It's game over.

This wasn't even on a short list of worst losses ever. I can think of at least a half dozen in the last ten years ago that were much worse. This wasn't even the worst loss this season. Perhaps it is the most painful for fans but losing at home to Boston College and Virginia Tech, not to mention American and Ohio, were worse for this team's postseason hopes. Win either of those ACC games and Maryland probably doesn't need to beat Clemson to get in the NCAA tournament.

This loss is hard because it was a missed opportunity. Yes, yes Maryland was leading by 20 points with about 11 minutes left but it was really in the last 5 minutes that the Terps lost the game. Clemson is a solid team and they were playing so bad that you had to believe that they would rally at some point. They kept their poise and suddenly found themselves in a position to win because of Maryland's ineptitude. In the last four and a half minutes Maryland turned the ball over three times, went 1/4 from the floor and missed the front end of a one-and-one. Clemson went 8/11 during that time, including 6/6 on its last six possessions, with three steals and 3 offensive rebounds. Clearly the players thought the game was already over when they went up by 13 with under 5 minutes to go. Clemson outworked them in the final moments.

Clemson is a deeper, more experienced and in some ways more talented team than Maryland so it wasn't surprising that they closed the gap. This squad probably should have beaten North Carolina twice this season and perhaps they learned something from those losses about toughness and playing hard for the whole game. This Maryland group still doesn't understand that. I've been commenting all season about how this group doesn't finish off opponents. Even in wins over Wake Forest and Georgia Tech they let the game get way too close for comfort. I think part of this is the passive nature of so many of the players on this team. It also has something to do with the decisions of Gary Williams in regards to rotations. It is no coincidence that he plays the starters for 30+ minutes a night and so many games come down to the wire after the opponent has a furious comeback in the closing minutes. The starters look gassed and confused at the end of games. It wasn't the freshmen making critical mistakes down the stretch that lost the game for Maryland.

If you just took a measure of the box score you'd assume that Maryland would have won the game: they won the field goal percentage margin and rebounding margin, had more free throw attempts and assists and even had more bench scoring. Maryland did have more turnovers but only 7 of the 21 total were in the 2nd half. That isn't great but when you have a double digit lead and you only turn the ball over seven times in a half it probably wasn't turnovers that killed you. The kinds of turnovers were bad since a number lead to easy scores by Clemson but the offensive rebounding by the Tigers and poor free throw shooting by Maryland was probably what did them in. Clemson had 4 steals in the 2nd half but also had 11 offensive rebounds. There is no question which is more valuable. Clemson is supposed to the be the worst foul shooting team in the ACC but it was Maryland that missed crucial free throws down the stretch. If Landon Milbourne makes both his free throws with a minute left instead of missing the front end of the one-and-one Clemson would have probably been forced to foul on the last possession. Instead of forcing the Tigers to do something that they didn't want to do Maryland allowed them to gamble and not foul. At worst Maryland would have had the ball with the opportunity to take the last shot with the game tied.

I'll never understand Gary Williams decisions in regards to player rotations. Again in this game he pulled Adrian Bowie and Jerome Burney after Maryland had built up a double digit lead again and the starters proceeded to squander it. On the last possession by Clemson you had to assume that the Tigers would take the last shot so instead of playing for defense Gary Williams left in Hayes and Milbourne for what I have to assume were offensive concerns in case Maryland got the ball back without any timeouts or opportunity to substitute. Again the two worst perimeter defenders on the team were on the floor when you knew that Clemson would probably try either a drive and kick or some inside-outside set. Terrence Oglesby, who has little ability to put the ball on the floor, was covered by Milbourne and hit his third 3-point basket of the 2nd half for the game winner. The sophomore forward was guarding him on all three baskets. Milbourne is certainly the goat of the game but is it his fault that Williams put him in a situation where it was likely he would fail? Oliver Purnell isn't dumb, he recognized the weakness and attacked it like teams have been doing to Maryland all season.

Now things look much worse for the Terrapins. They need to win the next two games, at Virginia and then the first game of the ACC tournament, to have a decent chance of getting selected. They probably can get little better than the 5th seed in the ACC tournament and may even slip to 7th if things don't go well since Miami and Virginia Tech have tiebreakers.

Offense: 87.2
Defense: 95.0


Anonymous said...

It's pretty much as you describe. However, on the positive side, Gist played well and the bench (Bowie and Burney) were great. As I've said before, here in Atlanta at Westlake, Jerome was a shot blocking machine. Milbourne reminds me of Travis Garrison; canoe paddels for hands. The only difference is that Garrison had a shooting touch. Time for Milbourne to sit down at the end of the bench. I think Hayes and Boom will snap out of it, but this was a game that showed what a strong team Maryland can be and how quickly they can go in the tank.

Hokie Guru said...

6 teams still in for the ACC... UMD and VT must have 20 wins...

Esquire said...

Milbourne had a horrible final minute. Missed a front end of a one-and-one, turned the ball over near half court resulting in a Clemson score and then failed to guard Oglesby on the game winning 3-point shot. I think his shooting touch is okay. He is shooting 40% from beyond the arc, which is best on the team, and 81% from the free throw line but his poor shot selection has him at only 42% overall from the floor. Milbourne's problems are that he isn't a very instinctive player(offense or defense) and his dribble is shaky.

I don't see the ACC getting 6 teams in the tournament. That would require Miami, Virginia Tech and Maryland to all win out and grab a game in the ACC tourney. I'd break it down this way:

65% 4 teams
30% 5 teams
5% 6 teams

Hokie Guru said...

I think I've said this enough, but I want Maryland to beat Duke... I hate Duke... hate'em.... my two favorite teams are Virginia Tech and anyone who plays Duke... we need to start selling some t-shirts to the 11 ACC schools that have that saying on it... "my two favorite teams are _____ and any team playing duke"

I guess I need to grow up.

Hokie Guru said...

Three teams is at 100%... UNC, Duke, and Clemson are locks...