Thursday, February 26, 2009

Terps fade in the end

Maryland played with a great deal of courage and gave a valiant, if not always competent, effort in losing to Duke last night. The early foul trouble to Greivis Vasquez certainly changed the game and I firmly believe that if he had not missed over 10 minutes of the 2nd half that Maryland would have probably beaten a vulnerable Duke squad. The officials didn't call a particularly even game and no one would mistake that group for the best officials the league has to offer. Even so Vasquez made some critical mistakes early in the 2nd half when it was clear the officials were calling some ticky tack fouls. When he went to the bench Maryland's defense wilted and the rebounding went decidedly in Duke's favor. Duke went from shooting 34% in the 1st half to shooting 56% in the 2nd half. Maryland also missed Vasquez's ability to grab defensive rebounds as they went from a -3 rebound margin at halftime to a -8 margin in the 2nd half alone. Sean Mosley's departure with an ankle sprain didn't help that either but it was obvious that without Vasquez in the game Maryland's frontline can't be effective at protecting the glass. At halftime Vasquez had 8 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists which would have made for a very nice night had he played much of the 2nd half. It was clear the offense was barely functional without Vasquez. Maryland's shooting dropped from 53.6% in the 1st half to 40.9% in the 2nd half when Vasquez missed most of the game. The Terps did keep close to Duke with Vasquez on the bench but the offense didn't run smoothly illustrated by the fact that outside of Vasquez the rest of the team accounted for 3 assists. There were the two lucky 3-point chucks that happen to fall from Adrian Bowie and Eric Hayes as both futile offensive possessions were winding down. In addition Landon Milbourne did his best to keep Maryland close from the 17 minute mark scoring 10 points in the next 12 minutes. Still, it was clear that though Milbourne and Bowie did their best to make plays that without Vasquez opening things up for his teammates the offense is very pedestrian.

Maryland couldn't defend the glass against an aggressive but undersized Duke frontline and couldn't find anyone who could effectively guard Gerald Henderson. Sean Mosley and Cliff Tucker both tried to check Henderson but neither enjoyed much success, though Tucker was clearly totally over matched while Mosley was able to hold his own for the most part. Dave Neal and Dino Gregory didn't give Maryland much help on the inside and had fewer combined rebounds in 43 minutes than Vasquez had in just 22 foul plagued minutes. For most of the game the defense was motivated and intense but late in the 2nd half it broke down and gave up some critical 3-point baskets with the game tied at 60 with just under six minutes left. The two three point baskets by Henderson and Kyle Singler were the back breakers for Maryland and the Terps never got closer than five points from that point on.

Cliff Tucker went from a career game against UNC to a net negative against Duke with only 4 points in 19 minutes and some turnstile defense against Henderson. It was another example of the problem with Tucker's inconsistency which undermines his decent talents. I don't think he was ready to play, especially on defense, and he isn't good enough to get by without adequate preparation. Unless Eric Hayes and Tucker can find some more consistency Maryland will depend on Vasquez to play great over the next three games. Bowie has shown a little improvement and might be coming out of his slump with 14 points.

Besides the rebounding and defense Maryland's critical misses at the free throw line also hurt them. In a tight game like this one you can't afford to miss free throws, turn the ball over or give up offensive rebounds. The Terps took care of the ball fairly well but missed seven 2nd half free throws (63% for the half) and gave up six offensive rebound on eleven misses by Duke. Maryland didn't get to many loss balls and allowed Duke to spread them out and break down the defense when they got a slim lead at the end of the game. It is painful because Duke was very beatable last night and didn't lose the game while Maryland didn't do enough to win it.


FREDTERP said...

ESQ, it is time to give Eric Hayes some due. He has stepped up his game? FREDTERP

Esquire said...

Indeed, he has been very solid the last few weeks. With Tucker, Mosley and Bowie being so up and down his steady production is very useful. He hasn't always been great but he hasn't had a 3 point 1 for 7 stinker either.