Monday, December 14, 2009

Vulnerable Terps struggle with Eastern Kentucky

In many ways Eastern Kentucky is a less talented version of Villanova and some of the vulnerabilities that were exposed in the loss to the Wildcats were evident again in a narrow win over the Colonels. EKU hit 11 three point shots at a 47% clip and during a number of stretches the Terrpain defense was shredded by the passing and spacing of their opponents. It is obvious that Maryland doesn't have many good individual defenders and right now that are not playing good enough team defense to hide some of the weaker defenders on the team. Almost every Maryland player had moments where his defense was exploited but Eric Hayes was particularly guilty of some terrible defensive series. In the 2nd half EKU isolated on Hayes and scored three straight baskets. Hayes will never be a good defensive player but I don't think it is gratuitous to continue to point out the significant problems his inability to guard quick opponents because it will be a serious problem in ACC play.

Dino Gregory returned and in his first game back was given the start. I thought it was a ridiculous and indefensable choice by Gary Williams. It was widely reported that Gregory was suspended for an incident involving academic dishonesty and it is a mockery that he was given the privilege of returning to the court as a starter. Worse still when you consider that Jordan Williams has worked his tail off and done almost everything the coaches have asked him to do and yet was forced to give up his starting positon to a player who isn't as good and lost his starting spot through his own stupidity. I know that the overtones of poisoned relationship between Gary Williams and Debbie Yow played a role in Gregory's suspension. Williams would never pass up the opportunity to needle his critics and I have to wonder if Gregory starting was a byproduct of that petty side to the head coach. The skilled shooters for EKU were a bad matchup for Jordan Williams but Gregory hardly did much to distinguish himself in the game. Gregory played a shocking 33 minutes and grabbed a pathetic 3 rebounds. In 9 minutes Jordan Williams had 5. For Gary Williams sake I hope Gregory was just a little rusty because he hardly looked to me like a player that will make any useful contribution in ACC play.

Grievis Vasquez did not start because he was late for a team shoot around. The good news is that he looked more like his old self in this game than at any point this season. He shot 7/14 scoring 20 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. He also hit some clutch 3-point shots late in the 2nd half when Eastern Kentucky was hanging around.

Landon Milbourne had his usual impressive game against mid-major talent where he can better exploit the usually more unathletic frontcourt opponents.

Besides the suddenly leaky defense another issue that is vital for Maryland is the bench production. Either some players like Cliff Tucker or Adrian Bowie need to step up themselves or Gary Williams needs to do a much better job utilizing his bench players. Four of the starting five and Vasquez all played at least 32 minutes. Maryland cannot sustain that in ACC play. Clearly Tucker and Bowie have struggled this season but Williams has been known to mismanage his bench in the past and he has done little to improve the poor performance of his bench. It is hard to get improvement from your bench players when they don't get in the game.

You don't have to be a chicken little to conclude that right now this team does not resemble an NCAA tournament claliber squad. This team does have the pieces to do some damage in a weak ACC but they have yet to play at the level necessary to do that.

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