Monday, January 05, 2009

Terps top Niners

The Terps started off slowly against Charlotte and trailed by double digits at times to Bobby Lutz's team. The periodic slow starts that Maryland was able to overcome against the weaker parts of the schedule turned out to be more dangerous against a competent Charlotte team. The Terps did show better poise and doggedness in the pivotal 2nd half to pull away with a 10 point win that wasn't really that close. The bench had its best game of the season given the opponent that took the fourth best team in the ACC, Clemson, down the wire in a one point loss. I think the poor defensive effort had much to do with a level of complacency that had developed over the last few games against inferior opponents. Greivis Vasquez (27 points, 4 rebounds) proved again that he is the premier player on this team and the best Maryland player since Juan Dixon left campus.

The defensive lapses were the most glaring weakness in this game. Maryland was so worried about Charlotte's athletic frontcourt abusing Dave Neal and Landon Milbourne that they were trying to double when the ball went into the post. This left Charlotte's perimeter shooters open and they connected on seven of their fourteen shots in the first half. This gave the Niners their halftime lead at 41-38. The Terps cranked up the defensive ball pressure and started pushing the ball in transition in the 2nd half to take the lead for good after the first five minutes. Gary Williams switched to a zone defense, looked like a 1-2-2, which really gave Charlotte fits on offense. There were few open looks after that on the perimeter and though the Charlotte frontcourt may be athletic they don't have any real efficient low post scorer.

Sean Mosley may have had a breakout game with 11 points and 5 rebounds. Williams seems to like Mosley as much as any freshman in recent memory, mostly because he is a hard worker in practice and bulldog on the court. Mosley does the little things very well and is savvy for a freshman, but his shots were just not falling. Perhaps his two 3-pointers (he only had one prior to that all year) were a sign the lid is now off the basket. If Maryland is going to make it back to the tournament they will need contributions off the bench like this.

Cliff Tucker also played well off the bench with 8 points and 3 rebounds in only 10 minutes. He got a little sloppy at the end of the game along with Adrian Bowie and allowed the Niners to take a 19 point rout down to the final margin of ten points. If Tucker and Mosley can continue to play this way off the bench Maryland will be a very tough team to play.

Dino Gregory and Braxton Dupree combined to make a pretty effective big man. Those two helped the Terps obliterate Charlotte on the boards and combined for 9 rebounds in just over 30 minutes. Neither scored much but if they can rebound and play defense the rest of the team will pick up the slack. You have to wonder how long Dave Neal will hold onto his starting spot once ACC play starts. Neal got exposed at times by the bigger and athletic players of Charlotte, which more closely resemble the frontcourts of Georgia Tech and Miami than Elon and Bryant. Neal can be a fine bench player but you can't play him 20 minutes in the ACC and expect to get away with it.

Eric Hayes has been struggling with his outside shot recently but hit a few open looks when his teammates looked for him spotting up. He has a habit of sneaking around and getting himself open especially when the ball is in the corner or when he is on the weak side.

Adrian Bowie hasn't played all that great since solidifying his starting spot. He is going through a shooting slump (only one for his last twelve from 3-point range) and has been a little sloppy with the ball (9 turnovers the last three games). Despite all that he is still the best on the ball defender when he is motivated and can create offense with his drives to the basket. For his size he may be the best rebounder on the team. Mosley and Tucker are bound to put some pressure on Bowie to keep his starting spot.

Landon Milbourne has scored in double figures in seven straight games, the longest streak of his career, and is showing some impressive maturation during this season. He is very efficient in his shooting (52%) and is relying less on his outside shot this season. His defense has improved since the beginning of the year though he will be tested more with ACC play starting this Saturday. Milbourne has become a legitimate complement to Vasquez while being able to score in almost every offensive category, he has shooting range out to the 3-point line, scores well in transition and has the best vertical ability of any player on the team. How he fairs in ACC play will be a key to the team's fortunes as he was too inconsistent in league play last year.

The Terps will hopefully get some good news regarding Jerome Burney's injury status this week before the Georgia Tech game. Freshman big Steve Goins is also being evaluated for a potential stress fracture (force these guys to drink some milk, please) but with how little he played before the injury I'm not sure Gary Williams would use him much anyway.


Sean said...

Great post, as usual. Good to get a sense of the games when I miss them. How do you think we match up against GT?

terpsfan said...

Hayes is one of the best three point shooters when he's able to shoot from a standing position and set his feet. He's extremely poor when shooting a three pointer off a curl, or a pull-up jumper. If he picks his spots better, he could help the team much more.

itchy said...

It's about time Milbourne played like this. He's always had the ability.

Oh, and ... Jin Soo Kim! C'mon, Gary!

Esquire said...

The Yellow Jackets clearly have a big advantage on the inside with Aminu, Lawal and even Peacock(6-10, 6-8, 6-8) but none of them are terribly efficient players. On defense Georgia Tech is solid if nothing else. They play an uptempo and slightly frenetic style that leads to mistakes.

The Terps should have a huge advantage in the backcourt and I expect Vasquez, Bowie, Hayes and Mosley to do well with their matchups. If Maryland takes care of the ball and doesn't go stone cold shooting they should win this game.

Two other things to look at:

1. Maryland is one the best free throw shooting teams in the entire nation while Georgia Tech is one of the worst. The Terps need to get to the line more often than they have until now to exploit that advantage.

2. Georgia Tech has struggled from the outside at times. Their offense is predominantly inside the 3-point line.

As I've said a number of times it is better to be thin in the frontcourt than the backcourt in college basketball. Usually the better backcourt will win. This game will be a test case for that theory.