Monday, December 08, 2008

Terps roll over Colonials

Maryland won for the first time at Verizon Center since 2004 and beat George Washington for the first time since 2002. It has certainly been a house of horrors for the Terps recently regardless of whether the season was a success or disappointment. Maryland removed the suspense early in the game the other night as Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne hit four 3-point shots in the first six minutes to push the Terps' lead to nine points. The Colonials never really challenged Maryland after that and the lead swelled to close to 30 points at times in the 2nd half finishing with 23 point win at 76-53. It was probably the most dominant performance of the season.

Eric Hayes came out and hit his first two 3-point attempts which really gave the offense a boost and take some of the pressure off of other players like Greivis Vasquez and Landon Milbourne. Hayes only made two of his next eight field goal attempts but is much more active on defense lately. He still struggles with quick guards who can dribble penetrate but Hayes is certainly playing much better on both ends of the floor the last two games.

Landon Milbourne looked more like the player Maryland was hoping he would be in the preseason. He scored 20 points on 8 out of 13 shooting and grabbed 8 rebounds (4 of them offensive rebounds) while playing decent defense and blocking four shots. With Dino Gregory doing most of the dirty work on the interior, and being a revelation the last couple of games, Milbourne has more freedom to do the things he is better at instead of trying to be the interior presence on the boards and on defense that he really isn't capable of being. His inside-outside offensive game and weak side shot blocking  were on display against the Colonials. The Terps desperately need Milbourne to continue some decent production on offense and hit those perimeter shots he is capable of making.

Adrian Bowie is showing the kinds of skills that I felt he would if given a chance. His defense hasn't been as great as I would have hoped but he adds an element of athleticism to the backcourt and an ability to break down opponents off the dribble that Hayes and Vasquez don't possess. He led the team with 12 points at halftime and GW had no answer for Bowie on defense. I think Bowie, Hayes and Vasquez are clearly the starting backcourt going forward.

As I mentioned Dino Gregory has came out of nowhere to claim a major role, if not a starting spot, with his play the last two games. Gregory is still a work in progress on offense but this team doesn't need anything more from him right now than his energetic rebounding and defense. He is far more effective on offense or defense than Dave Neal and is clearly a better athlete. Neal has been a nice story early this year but he is essentially a small forward with little inside presence on either end of the floor. This team needs a rebounding and defensive presence that neither Neal nor Milbourne are offering this season. Gregory, at least for now, appears to be able to fill this role. It remains to be seen if he'll be as effective in ACC play.

Sean Mosley is certainly in a shooting slump but you have to assume he'll start hitting more of those shots when he gets them. This team needs his gritty play off the bench and he is filling an important role in rebounding and playing defense. Until or unless Cliff Tucker really steps up Mosley is going to get the majority of the bench minutes going forward.

Greivis Vasquez earned another ACC Player of the Week after recording another double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He still had five turnovers but is making better decisions in shooting the ball and playing a higher level of defense. Teams have been very aggressive in double teaming Vasquez when he drives to the basket and it would make things much easier for him if his teammates were able to take the load like they did on Sunday. He'll be more effective and less mistake prone when he doesn't feel like the only scoring option.

I've often said that last season Gary Williams mismanaged the bench early in the year and it may have cost Maryland later in the year when they could have gotten an NCAA bid with just one extra win. Williams is a great game coach, still among the best in college basketball, but he tends to get wrapped up in the game and develops tunnel vision when it comes to his bench. With a 23 point win and a sizable lead the whole second half why would Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes play 34 and 33 minutes respectively? There is no reason for that. There was little threat for GW to come back with under seven minutes left in the game and instead of developing the bench by playing Braxton Dupree, Steve Goins, Jin Soo Kim or Cliff Tucker he stuck with the starters for most of the time.  These kinds of early season blowouts against athletes that are a step above the Bucknells of the world are golden opportunities to give players who you may need later in the season some game time, which cannot be made up by practice time. It was my only quibble coming out of this game.

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