Sunday, January 18, 2009

Terps surge to overtime, then fall

In a reverse of the crushing loss to Miami the Terrapins were the team that was attempting to come from behind in the 2nd half against Florida State yesterday. They succeeded in sending the game into overtime where they eventually faded but couldn't win the game in regulation if for no other reason than the team is devoid of any great outside shooters unlike Miami. Once again Maryland shot an abysmal 38% from the floor (27% from 3-point range) presenting more evidence that this just might be the worst shooting team that Gary Williams has ever had at Maryland. The 2004-5 team shot 43.9% from the floor, the worst number in the 20 seasons under Gary Williams, while this year's team is shooting 41.6% after the Florida State loss. This group will almost certainly finish behind the 2004-5 team because they would have to shoot better than 46% for the rest of the season to match that rate with an equivalent number of attempts. In its first three ACC games this squad has failed to top 70 points in regulation (they had 66 at the end of the 2nd half yesterday), the first time that has ever occurred under Gary Williams. With the most difficult games on the schedule still to go and Maryland unable to knock down 3-point shots at a reasonable rate it is highly unlikely that number will go up. The odd thing is that Maryland could have easily won either game against Florida State or Miami. What this road trip showed was that even on the road with an impotent offense they are no worse than any other team outside the top four in the conference.

Junior Greivis Vasquez had the game I thought he might have on Wednesday but it didn't happen until Saturday against Florida State. He seemed listless, out of sync and dispirited. All those fans who want to see him play with less emotion got a taste of what this team would be like if that happens and it wasn't pretty. Florida State did a good job of doubling Vasquez every time he drove to the basket and it certainly helped that his shooting stroke was no where to be found. It was obviously reminiscent of his dreadful performance against Georgetown earlier in the season when he scored two points. I feared that all the criticism that Vasquez receives would make him reluctant to be the leader on the floor, which is vital to this team's chances to win. I didn't think it would sap him of his boundless confidence but yesterday's game makes me wonder if that hasn't happened. At times Vasquez passed up opportunities and almost seemed reluctant to shoot the ball. He is struggling with his confidence in his shooting, something I'm sure no one would believe, and clearly with good reason doesn't have much faith in his teammate's ability to score either. It was obvious there is something else going on with Vasquez when he missed two free throws late in the game while shooting over 90% for the season and hitting 35 in a row. There was none of Vasquez's usual extortions of his teammates or demonstrations of passion at a critical success. At the end of the game he looked almost like a catatonic Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It will be interesting to see how Vasquez responds on Tuesday night against Virginia and facing the home crowd for the first time since the ugly events during the Georgia Tech game.

As bad as Vasquez has been shooting the last few games he is far from alone, even if every story will mention his struggles but probably fail to mention that Dave Neal and Eric Hayes have been just as wretched. In the last three games Vasquez is shooting a horrendous 28.8% from the floor while Neal has shot 26.9% and Hayes 35.5% in ACC play. Hayes had one of his worst games at Maryland against FSU. Though he outscored Vasquez in most other ways he played a much worse game. With just over a minute left in the game and the scored tied at 64 Hayes sailed a pass out of bounds. Not only did it deprive Maryland of a potential field goal attempt and a go ahead score it also gave FSU another possession at the end of the game that they would not had otherwise. Instead of finishing 2:1 in possessions Maryland finished the game 1:2. On Maryland's last possession they were reduced to Hayes trying to take the Seminole's best defender, Toney Douglas, one on one. The weakest part of Hayes' game is probably his ability to take the defense off the dribble. Lucky for Maryland Landon Milbourne was there to grab an offensive rebound and tie the game with a put back.

I don't feel like beating a dead horse today but I have no idea why Dave Neal plays as many minutes as he does. Is Neal bricking 3-point attempts in overtime really the offensive strategy? Of all the players on this team are those the hands you want the ball placed in with the game tied in overtime?

Landon Milbourne had his best game of the season against FSU last year and had another great game yesterday. While he was called for traveling on the critical possession in overtime with Maryland only down by two points I think the replay clearly shows he was fouled. Milbourne and Sean Mosley kept Maryland in the game with their 2nd half play and the junior scored 8 points in the last three minutes of the game and overtime. He had 9 rebounds to go with his 17 points and helped Maryland hold its own against a much bigger Seminole frontline. Clearly more of the offense needs to be run through Milbourne because right now he is having to rely on offensive rebounds for too many of his chances.

Sean Mosley bounced back well after a bad Miami game and set another career high with 13 points and 5 rebounds in only 25 minutes of play. He missed a couple of free throws (the one at the end was obviously intentional) but was really good at the head of the 1-2-2 zone defense that Maryland switched to late in the game. Mosley had two steals and scored on several fast breaks from that position on defense. Gary Williams said the 1-2-2 has some "holes" on defense but I think it might be worth showing it more against other middle of the road teams in the ACC.

Another dead horse topic but I really am starting to wonder what Gary Williams is thinking with his substitution patterns. It was no surprise that Maryland faded in the overtime as the starters once again put in a huge number of minutes. Vasquez had a ridiculous 42 minutes for a player who was obviously struggling, ditto on Hayes with 39 and Neal with 31 minutes. Landon Milbourne played 37 but Adrian Bowie was limited to 24 minutes with foul trouble again. As an aside Bowie needs to wise up and stop committing stupid offensive fouls, two against FSU and four in the last two games. He needs to realize that this team desperately needs him to stay on the floor. He can't be giving away possessions with turnovers and compounding that with getting himself put on the bench with foul trouble. With all those minutes was it totally shocking that Vasquez and Hayes, both excellent foul shooters, missed critical free throws late in the game when their legs were gone? Williams' mismanagement of the bench has been shockingly bad and probably cost Maryland both the Miami and FSU games.

This couldn't be more obvious if you notice the players on the court for the final free throw by Sean Mosley. Down two points after Mosley made the first free throw Maryland had to miss and hope for a tip in or quick jumper off the rebound. Gary Williams decided to have a 6-6 Dave Neal in the low block. How on earth was that going to help you? Jin Soo Kim is 6-8 and athletic, Steve Goins doesn't need to be in game shape to tip a ball to a shooter, even Braxton Dupree has a better chance of tipping the ball than Dave Neal. The fact that the rebounds did get knocked out of bounds off Neal is very fitting. It was a decision so utterly absurd I can't even begin to speculate on the strategy by Gary Williams. I've always felt that Williams was one of the best bench coaches in the ACC, if not the nation, but some of the decisions he has made this season have been baffling.

Surprisingly the Terps out rebounded Florida State 44-37 with 17 offensive rebounds. They have done a pretty good job against three very physical teams in Georgia Tech, Miami and FSU. They just can't hit enough shots to win. With the talent gap between starters like Eric Hayes and Dave Neal and the bench being insignificant I'd like to see players like Dino Gregory (16 minutes against FSU), Sean Mosley and Jin Soo Kim playing more and the minutes less concentrated with the starters. On a side note it was disappointing to see Braxton Dupree and Cliff Tucker laughing and joking on the bench with Maryland losing in the closing seconds. I obviously don't know what they were laughing about but they were the only ones on the bench acting that way and I can't imagine what would have possessed them to be so nonchalant in the face of another tough loss. I doubt that they are both going to be on the roster at the start of next season and perhaps that moment is very telling as to why neither of them are playing up to expectations. In the words of George Patton, "I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Esquire as always a pleasure to read your posts. However, I would give Gary a break; his use of the 3-2 zone totally turned the game around when things were looking really bad. I think the substitution patterns are more of a reflection of his giving up on Dupree and possibly others; its scary how little Braxton has evolved (devolved?). Its a pity because Mosley and Bowie are starting to really shine, and Milbourne has been a true warrior.

I think GW is thinking he's more likely to get more effort from less talent in Neal, as opposed to more talent and zero effort from Dupree. This squad with a Jamar Smith-level PF would be truly exciting to see come tournament time.