What a great moment for junior guard Cliff Tucker. In his two and a half years at Maryland Tucker has let his frustration at a lack of playing time get the better of him and hasn’t consistently played with good effort. It is worth noting that just last season Tucker was seen laughing on the end of the bench with Braxton Dupree as Maryland lost an overtime game against Florida State and then later went public with his frustrations about his lack of playing time after a critical win later in the season. Both incidents showed a disappointing lack of maturity and called into question if Tucker would ever possess the work ethic to be anything more than a role player. Tucker has admitted that he was lazy at times and let himself turn apathetic on and off the court. It is a obvious lesson that you’ll never win more playing time by giving up. His playing time is still not consistent as he played 46 minutes against Duke and Virginia while only logging 18 minutes against N.C. State and Georgia Tech. Part of that is due to the foul situation that Sean Mosley is in during any particular game but it has also been a byproduct of Gary William’s tunnel vision during close games. Tucker is posting an impressive 115.4 offensive rating on 47% shooting in ACC play. His floor game has improved though he doesn’t rebound well, even for a guard. With Sean Mosley’s struggles on offense it would make sense for Tucker to get a longer look especially when the Terps’ offense is not clicking.
Somewhat lost in the euphoria over Tucker’s buzzer beater was Greivis Vasquez reaching the 2,000 point mark to become the only player in ACC history with 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds. That is damn impressive. Vasquez didn’t play a great game and his shot selection was very poor but he and Eric Hayes were the only players in double figures for the game. He was able to get to the free throw line when Maryland’s offense was in a rut and if Landon Milbourne and Dino Gregory could have done a halfway decent job rebounding Georgia Tech’s miss in the closing seconds Vasquez’s runner with 13 seconds left would have been the game winner. It seems ridiculous to criticize an 18 point, 8 assist and 5 rebound game from the best player on the team. With his last couple of games he has raised the bar to a unrealistic level and you seem to just expect the exceptional to be commonplace.
It is a good thing the old Eric Hayes returned after having what was described as a acute case of the flu that hobbled him for the N.C. State game. Hayes finished with 15 points and five assists while hitting a bunch of clutch shots including two with Maryland trailing 68-66 with just over two minutes remaining in the game. A fabulous floating runner and a baseline 3-point shot put Maryland up 71-68.
Georgia Tech is a bad matchup for Landon Milbourne and it showed as he went 2/11 from the floor and only scored 5 points. Like Vasquez his shot selection wasn’t the best but he contributed with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Neither he nor Dino Gregory had a prayer of limiting Derrick Favors who dominated both of them to the tune of 21 points and 18 rebounds. I really don’t understand why Gary Williams had Gregory and Milbourne both in the game in the closing minutes. It was obvious that Georgia Tech was knocking them around the boards like a couple of rag dolls and Gregory failed to even get a body on Favors when he tipped in the rebound to give GT the lead 74-73 with three seconds left. Jordan Williams is a better offensive and defensive player than Gregory and I thought it was a mistake by Gary Williams that nearly cost Maryland the game. Gregory did have some good moments in the 1st half in scoring 9 points but he only grabbed 2 rebounds in 16 minutes, turned the ball over because he failed to realize he couldn’t run the baseline off a deadball inbound and then missed a layup with under a minute left and Maryland ahead by one point. Jordan Williams held his own with 9 points and 12 rebounds and is showing that he can play with anyone in the ACC. His hustle for a rebound in the closing minutes that resulted in a jump ball for Maryland was very impressive and helped turn the tide in Maryland’s favor. A play that won’t show up in the box score but was crucial.
In addition to Tucker Adrian Bowie had a nice game with six points all from 3-point baskets. He seems to have a rejuvenated confidence in his shooting and that is a great sign for Maryland. He and Tucker combined to go 4/6 from 3-point range and score 14 points.
Maryland’s offense looked spotty mostly because they were taking bad shots early in the shot clock. This bailed Georgia Tech out from guarding the flex for 20+ seconds and helped them get a few fast break baskets. Once Maryland started moving the ball better the offense really picked up and they shot 50% in the 2nd half. The offensive rebounds by Georgia Tech kept the Jackets in the game and prevented Maryland from extending it’s lead past 5 points on numerous occasions. You have to give Derrick Favors the appropriate credit for having a phenomenal game on the offensive glass but there were times when Maryland players were in position and failed to box out Yellow Jackets. Milbourne and Gregory combined to grab a mere 22.5% of the defensive rebounds while Jordan Williams had 26.3% by himself. With Duke and Clemson still on the schedule they need to do a better job if Gary Williams is going to continue to play that duo together.
If Sean Mosley doesn’t throw a lazy inbounds pass that is stolen and nearly turned into a break away dunk with about 5 minutes left does Cliff Tucker come in to replace him and hit the game winning shot? If Keith Booth had not called a timeout with 1.5 seconds left would Vasquez’s running bank 3-point basket have won the game anyway? I think it was still a decent decision by Booth even though Gary Williams nearly had a stroke. What a crazy finish. Back when Maryland dropped a home game to William & Mary the season wasn’t looking very promising so I consoled myself watching the ending of the 2003 NCAA Tournament game against UNC Wilmington when Drew Nicholas hit a 3-point shot as time expired. Tucker’s shot wasn’t nearly as big but it is a nice reminder of the kind a magic that Maryland’s program enjoyed in the not so distant past.