Thursday, January 08, 2009

Another mid-major loss at home

When the inevitable epitaph to the Gary Williams era is written the probability is that it will mention the loss last night to Morgan State along with the losses last season to American and Ohio as the end of an era. It may not happen this year, next year or the year after that but it seems clear that the golden era of Maryland basketball under Gary Williams is over. The hope that Williams would recapture some magic with a bunch of scrappy overachievers seems like a forlorn attempt at nostalgia after last night's debacle. The rest of the season will tell if this collection is a bunch of miss matched second tier talent or a group where the sum is better than the mediocre parts.

There is little mystery why the team lost last night. Turning the ball over 21 times, shooting 28% from the floor in one half and allowing eight 3-point baskets is a solid recipe for failure. Besides perhaps Landon Milbourne not a single person from Gary Williams to Cliff Tucker, who played a scant four minutes, had a good night. It was probably one of the worst coaching exhibitions I've seen from Williams in many years, from his poor substitutions, lack of defensive adjustments and inability to settle his team down on offense he was largely impotent to stop his teams slow decline in the 2nd half.

Not that his team played well. Between Dave Neal, Eric Hayes and Adrian Bowie, who all logged 30+ minutes, there were 12 turnovers. Greivis Vasquez had a dreadful game and chucked his was to a 5/21 shooting night for one of the worst 19 point scoring nights you'll ever see. His defense was shockingly bad against Morgan State's leading scorer Reggie Holmes, although all of Holmes 25 points were not his responsibility. It appeared that neither Vasquez nor his teammates took Morgan State seriously and it came back to bite them in the worst way. As bad as Vasquez was with his shooting he was at least able to get to the free throw line, unlike most of his teammates, and he wasn't the worst shooter of the game as the rest of the team excluding Milbourne, Neal and Bowie went a combined 2 for 19. That is right, two field goals out of 19 attempts.

Eric Hayes started off cold and never got on track. He played 33 minutes and only scored two points on 1/7 shooting, including a donut from 3-point range. Adrian Bowie continues to struggle since getting a starting nod with six turnovers and only one made free throw on three attempts. He was often trailing his man on screens and went over top instead of underneath on low post picks. Mosley failed to follow up his best performance of the season against Charlotte and missed several open shots.

Dino Gregory and Braxton Dupree had a dreadful stretch about ten minutes left in the game that allowed Morgan State to get back in the contest. I think the likelihood that Dupree will contribute anything meaningful to this team is getting slim and his career at Maryland is at a crossroads.

The Dave Neal fantasy continued. Although Neal shot the ball well he did little else with efficiency. Morgan State redshirt freshman Kevin Thompson abused Neal on the inside to the tune of 10 points and 13 rebounds, including 5 offensive rebounds. When the two teams combine to miss 89 field goal attempts you will get lots of rebound chances, heck even Braxton Dupree grabbed six rebounds in only six minutes, so Neal's nine rebounds needs to be tempered by that fact. His feeble attempts to tip the ball to teammates because he was unable to grab rebounds against Morgan State's bigger frontline was pathetic. For a "steady" senior who doesn't handle the ball much he turned it over three times as well. It may be a dead horse but playing Neal 30+ minutes in the ACC is a recipe for disaster. With Dupree playing his way to oblivion the only hope is that Jerome Burney recovers quickly or Gary Williams comes to his senses and tries Steve Goins in the post.

With Maryland trailing and the offense sputtering late in the game I don't understand why Williams never played Jin Soo Kim, the best shooter on the team according to the same head coach. There were plenty of opportunities to sub the freshman in the game at the end. What Maryland ended up with was two low percentage heaves by Vasquez and an ill advised baseline floater by Eric Hayes, who would have missed a two foot putt into an open man hole cover last night. No one was running the offense well and the team settled for the first look they got once Morgan State slowed down the tempo. The team went 1/14 from 3-point range so why not get Kim in there with a mismatch of Thompson or Marquise Kately? Williams got tunnel vision again last night and played all his starters over 30 minutes with disastrous results. Is is just a coincidence that Morgan State outscored Maryland 17-8 in the decisive last six and a half minutes? The starters were gassed. Defensive breakdowns resulted in open 3-point looks, missed free throws, and lack of rebounding.

As I've written before this team will live and die by their shooting. The offense wasn't great before last night and is at best pedestrian. Unless Sean Mosley starts scoring or Jin Soo Kim gets more playing time this group will be walking on a wire the whole season. Forget the rebounding and turnovers, it is the shooting that will determine where this team goes from here. Right now that is looking like another NIT invite.

1 comment:

terpsfan said...

Unfortunately I could not see the game because I live in the NY area, but from your recap, it seems like turnovers and bad shooting doomed the team. Turnovers has been a huge problem the past few years, but poor shooting will be the downfall of this team. They're not big enough to battle inside, so they're going to need to make threes to stay in the games against ACC teams, much like mid-major teams need to do against "BCS" teams. It's not a season-ending loss because they almost made the tournament last year with 2 bad losses and no non-conference wins, but it will take a 10-6 ACC record to have a chance to get an invite to the tournament. If this is another NIT season, some changes need to be made with this program. 4 out of 5 years in the NIT is not where you want your team to be after 11 straight NCAA appearances. They have some "winnable" games to start the ACC season, so it's important to quickly get back on track before the tougher games begin.