Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Terps win vital home game

This wasn't quite a "must win" game because Maryland has a bunch of games they must win to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. A "must win" game would be like the game at Virginia last season that Maryland (sitting at 8-7) lost in embarrassing fashion. The Terps pulled out the win after an excellent 1st half and a very shaky 2nd half, 84-78. The offense looked better than it has in an ACC game so far and the efficiency number, 119.0, is vastly better than the 92.3 they had averaged in three previous games. The 53.7% shooting was also the highest mark of the season surpassing the 51.7% against Delaware State. Virginia isn't a good defensive team and they rank near the bottom of the ACC in defensive efficiency but it was still a good sign after the wretched struggles in the first three games. You had to figure something would give and they wouldn't keep shooting under 40% so perhaps Virginia was just what the doctor ordered. The real test will be if this offensive explosion, and this was an explosion compared to what went before, can be sustained beyond last night.

Adrian Bowie and Landon Milbourne are becoming a formidable duo to go along with a struggling Greivis Vasquez. Over the last two games they are averaging 15.5 points and 17 points per game respectively. Bowie needs to make some better decisions and stay out of foul trouble. He sometimes gets tunnel vision when dribbling the ball and that results in offensive fouls and missed teammates open for shots. Milbourne is showing great aggression and effort as shown by his 7 offensive rebounds in the last two games. He is shooting almost 55% from the floor and providing a great inside game that Maryland was lacking. If he can continue at this clip it will add a whole other dimension to Maryland's team. Before the recent play of Bowie and Milbourne if Vasquez didn't play well this team had no chance to win but now they can still be competitive. Once Vasquez shakes off his recent slump this team could be dangerous and given Vasquez's love of Cameron don't be surprised if he blows up at Duke on Saturday.

Eric Hayes had a nice statistical night and bounced back well from an awful game against Florida State. Hayes did struggle a little once Virginia turned up the defensive pressure in the 2nd half. Hayes will have to play at this level at Duke if Maryland is going to handle the Blue Devil's pressure defense.

Virginia erased Maryland's 15 point halftime lead with some impressive scoring and not turning the ball over like they did in the first half (6 in the 2nd half after 13 in the 1st). Interesting side note that Maryland only scored 21 points off 19 turnovers while Virginia scored 19 points off only 13 Maryland turnovers. The 3-2 zone that Maryland used effectively against FSU broke down a little with Vasquez playing the middle position of the guard trio. He was dropping down too low when the ball went to the wings and it left Virginia with open shots or driving lanes when the ball was reversed. To be fair it was probably because the staff was concerned with rebounding as Virginia killed Maryland on the boards in the 2nd half. I think Vasquez is better on the wing in the 3-2 and Mosley did a great job from that middle position against FSU. I was glad to see Gary Williams use it again.

Dave Neal missed a large section of the game when his eyebrow was split open by an Assane Sene elbow. Without him Maryland didn't skip a beat and the team outscored Virginia 38-26 to close out the 1st half. Dino Gregory scored 8 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in relief of Neal and Jin Soo Kim also filled in well in limited minutes. Frankly, I don't think the team missed him and it showed that somewhere around 15 minutes is what Neal should be playing. I understand the papers wanted to play up the "wounded warrior" angle but Neal was not instrumental in the win. He only came back in the game after Gregory got his fourth foul with about 13 minutes left in the 2nd half. Gary Williams claimed in typical coach fashion that Neal contributes by "talking" on defense that helps the team. I think production in the form of rebounding and defense is more important than locution, but that is just me.

Neither Braxton Dupree or Cliff Tucker distinguished themselves in limited minutes. I think Dupree won't produce much with more playing time but Tucker could be effective in spots. I think the starters (again over 30+ minutes in the Virginia game) are playing way too many minutes and Mosley and Tucker could fill in the gaps. I think until Burney is ready, if that ever happens, Jin Soo Kim deserves some more minutes. A broken record, I know.

It was a good win but nothing to be overly excited about.

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