In the 1st half Maryland’s defense looked about as settled as Greivis Vasquez’s stomach. The senior had to take some medication for an upset stomach prior to the game and it may have caused his slow start as he deferred to his teammates and couldn’t get his shot going with just two points on 1/6 shooting by halftime. Though he wasn’t scoring Vasquez had 8 assists in the first half helping Eric Hayes, Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams keep the Terps in the game. Mosley shook off his shooting slump and scored 11 points on 4/5 from the floor. He looked more confident than he has in months and took his shots in the flow of the offense. Hayes seems to have fully recovered from the flu bug that caused his play to drop off. His 12 points in the 1st half kept Maryland from getting blown out as Clemson was doing whatever they wanted on offense.
Maryland continued its strategy of doubling on Trevor Booker but it didn’t help much in the 1st half as Booker scored at will with 11 points and 8 rebounds by the half. When Booker wasn’t scoring Clemson was killing Maryland with a drive and kick offense that allowed them to drain 8/16 three point shots. In addition the vulnerability of Maryland to offensive rebounds was evident again as the Tigers grabbed 9 offensive rebounds. Clemson isn’t a great shooting team and struggles in the half court so you had to expect that their torrid shooting pace wouldn’t last but if they kept getting second chance points it wouldn’t matter much.
At halftime the staff stopped doubling as hard on Booker and it helped to limit the dribble penetrations that were giving Clemson open looks from the perimeter. It helped that forward Jerai Grant of Clemson got in early foul trouble and only managed 10 minutes before he fouled out with no points. It was a huge advantage for Maryland as Clemson’s replacements could not offer the scoring that Grant has provided them the last few weeks. Without an effective alternative Booker found it much harder to get opportunities in the 2nd half and only scored two points at the free throw line the entire rest of the game. The Terrapins were also able to turn the tables on Clemson and pressure them into 10 turnovers after the half. As Maryland packed in their defense Clemson started settling for 3-point shots but only went 3/14 in the last 20 minutes. That is a large part of why Maryland took 22 free throws in the 2nd half while Clemson only took four. The Terps were much more aggressive on offense and were able to draw fouls when the Tigers tried to up the pressure on defense.
When Maryland was able to whittle the score down to six points four minutes into the 2nd half and Vasquez still sitting on two points you had the feeling that it was only a matter of time before Vasquez asserted himself and took the game over. Starting with 10 minutes left in the game Vasquez did just that and over the pivotal four minutes that followed Vasquez had five points, three assists and two steals. Maryland went on a 17-4 run over that four minute span and Vasquez had a hand in 13 of those points. He didn’t have a good shooting night but scored 11 points in the final 8 minutes and hit some big shots. His 3-point shot with 7:26 left in the game gave Maryland a lead they would not relinquish. Vasquez’s pull up jumper with less than a minute left as the shot clock ticked down sealed the game for his team. It may not have seemed that Vasquez played a very good game because he was silent for long stretches but then you realize he had 15 points and 13 assists it becomes more clear how important he is to this team. His three steals were also critical down the stretch and were indicative of the excellent defense he played in the 2nd half.
Jordan Williams continues to defy expectations as he handled Booker in the 2nd half on defense while scoring 12 points in the last 20 minutes. He finished with 18 points and 5 rebounds but the low rebound total was partially due to Booker dragging Williams away from the basket towards the 3-point line for much of the 2nd half. While it limited Williams rebounding it also prevented Booker from being much of a factor on the offensive glass. In contrast to most freshmen Williams production is increasing as the season is wearing on.
The one weakness to Williams’ game is his free throw shooting and the freshman admitted it is one of the reasons that he isn’t on the floor as much at the end of close games. He has only hit 9 of his last 22 free throw attempts and would have scored over 20 points in two of the last three games had he hit those shots.
Cliff Tucker didn’t need any heroics in this game but he is growing into a solid bench contributor and Gary Williams seems to be more comfortable having Tucker on the floor in critical stretches of the game. He offers a very different look over Sean Mosley and his ability to shoot from outside and slash to the basket is a valuable asset. His six 2nd half points came at some critical moments in the game.
Dino Gregory and James Padgett also provided some valuable minutes off the bench. As Landon Milbourne continues to struggle the 8 rebounds Padgett and Gregory provided were crucial. It was nice to see Padgett getting rewarded for working hard as his 6 minutes were as many as he played in the prior two games combined.
I felt the Georgia Tech win would give this group a new level of confidence going down the stretch. Sure it was miraculous but the grit and determination that they showed in the last two games against likely NCAA tournament teams was impressive. Now firmly in second place in the ACC Maryland has a chance to make a run at the conference regular season title with a home game against Duke next week. A road game at Virginia Tech stands between Maryland and the showdown with the Blue Devils. Like most ACC teams the Hokies are a much better home team and are desperate after getting hammered by 20 points at Boston College. It will be another good test for this veteran group.