Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Escape from Bloomington

Maryland did just enough to win and almost enough to lose in a 80-68 victory that was much closer than the final score. The Terps showed the effects of the hangover from their poor performance in Maui with a dreadful stretch in the 1st half that saw them unable to play decent defense, turn the ball over with alarming frequency and fail to run any credible offense. The weakness of the Terps opponent was the only thing that saved them from trailing by double digits by halftime as they had in the two prior losses.

The ragged play continued into the 2nd half but once Maryland settled down and started committing to running their flex offense then things opened up and the Terps scored 20 points in the last six minutes of the game. Much was written about the extensive zone defense that Maryland employed and it was surprising that Williams bagged the press and man-to-man defense that has been his trademark at Maryland. While the zone did force a young Indiana team to make poor decisions it wasn't as though the actual defense the Terps played was all that great. There were significant gaps in the zone that a better team would have exploited. With Eric Hayes, Greivis Vasquez and Sean Mosley on the perimeter the ability of Maryland to shift and recover is limited. A team with good ball movement and deadly shooters, like say Duke, would have torched the zone. The zone defense also resulted in two unpleasant side effects, one expected and one not. Maryland gave up 12 offensive rebounds in the 2nd half, 20 for the game, in large part due to the obvious vulnerability of zone defenses in rebounding. That is a dreadful number to a Hoosiers team with a modest amount of frontcourt talent. The other unexpected issue was that Maryland started committing fouls at an alarming rate in the 2nd half while in the zone defense. Usually teams play zone to hide players in foul trouble but the Terps committed 10 fouls in the last 13 minutes of the game. While the zone certainly flummoxed Indiana on offense it wasn't nearly as effective as it would seem given the 32% shooting by the Hoosiers.

Vasquez had a mixed night. He continued to struggle shooting the ball with a 4/14 shooting night but got to the foul line when Maryland needed it and notched 8 assists (though his teammates mistakes probably cost him another 3-4) and 5 rebounds. According to reports the Indiana student section was hurling the kinds of bile at Vasquez and Jin Soo Choi that you would expect from Maryland fans and that Indiana coach Tom Crean wasn't too happy about it. That probably just set off Vasquez to have a 13 point, 4 assist and zero turnover 2nd half. As it was last year the team lives and dies with Vasquez mostly because the other players are not reliable alternatives.

Someone may look at the box score this morning and think Landon Milbourne playes a great game. His stat line: 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals looks great on paper but watching that game it was obvious that his performance was much more mixed. He added four turnovers and probably should have been credited with a couple more that went to other players. His defense was mediocre at best and his defensive rebounding was exposed in the low post. Milbourne can show flashes but he really needs to put together an entire floor game if he is going to be a complete player.

Eric Hayes also scored well with 14 points on 5/10 shooting but as with Milbourne his ball handling, rebounding and defense were very suspect. Hayes will never be a great defender but he seems even less able to keep dribblers out of the lane this season. His defensive vulnerabilities will be worth watching when Maryland faces Villanova on Sunday.

Sean Mosley had a nice all around game with 13 points and 9 rebounds on 5/9 shooting. He also added 4 turnovers but played a grueling 39 minutes with Cliff Tucker on the bench and Adrian Bowie the only reserve guard. It is hard to be unhappy with the progression of Mosley at this point in the season.

Adrian Bowie may have had a little breakout of his slump. He scored 5 points on 2/4 shooting and looked better than he has all season, though that is a low standard. He did have some turnovers (3) but one was on a terrible charge call as he tried to finish a one-on-one break. The Terps will need Bowie to continue to improve if they are going to string together some ACC wins.

Jordan Williams had a solid rebounding night with 11 but botched a number of easy field goals and still missed four free throws. Williams must improve his free throw shooting or that will become a major liability in his game. He has the form to improve but I think he is in a little slump from the line and it has gotten in his head.

James Padgett and Jin Soo Choi came off the bench in limited action but contributed little more than a few rebounds. Padgett did have a nifty bounce pass assist to Mosley under the hoop.

After this game I think you would have to feel relief more than anything else. There was little in the performance to temper the concerns raised in the losses to Cincinnati and Wisconsin. The game against Villanova presents a special opportunity for the Terps to notch a "signature" win in the out of conference portion of the schedule but they will have to improve if they hope to challenge the Wildcats.

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