Saturday, February 06, 2010

Ugly on and off the court

It wasn’t a beautiful performance by Maryland in Tallahassee and it was downright ugly off the floor as Seminole fan’s engaged in borderline racist heckling of Greivis Vasquez but the Terps came away with an essential road win. Just by the computer numbers the win at Florida State was probably more helpful than a win over Clemson would have been last Sunday. The Seminoles already hold a season sweep over Georgia Tech and have an easier schedule remaining than Clemson with two games against Miami and home games against Boston College, Clemson and Wake Forest. It is likely that FSU will finish with at least an 8-8 record in the ACC and probably will have a winning record.

 

The beginning of the game was similar to the offensive debacle against Clemson. Maryland had a slew of careless turnovers and was taking poor shots in the half court. That resulted in 38% shooting from the floor and misses on all six 3-point attempts. Outside of Vasquez the rest of the team shot 7/21 from the floor. Florida State also dominated the Terps in rebounding with 11 offensive rebounds to the 12 total that Maryland recorded in the 1st half. Along with 7 turnovers by Maryland that allowed Florida State to actually go into halftime leading by four even though they shot 33% for the half.

 

The change at halftime was obvious from the opening moments as Maryland scored seven straight points to take a 32-29 lead. The team showed more poise than they had against Clemson and had the patience to run their offensive sets. The result was that Maryland shot 46.7% from the floor in the 2nd half including a decent 38% from beyond the arc in the last 20 minutes. Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne combined to shoot 7/10 in the 2nd half and scored 21 points. The three seniors in this game did show the experience and mental fortitude that seemed to be lacking against Clemson.

 

Freshman Jordan Williams continues to progress at an impressive rate. Against Solomon Alabi, a likely NBA lottery pick, he scored 14 points in 7/11 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds. He also helped hold Alabi to 4/15 shooting and 10 rebounds. Coming off a ACC Rookie of the Week award Williams is showing a comfort level that is well beyond most freshmen and doesn’t seem intimidated by big name post players. He is almost assured a spot on the All-ACC freshmen team.

 

Maryland needed every point out of Vasquez, Milbourne, Hayes and Williams because the rest of the team went 0/10 from the floor and only scored 4 points. The lack of production from the bench has been a large contributing factor to the decline of the offense the last two games. Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker continued to get significant playing time but have not produced much the last two outings. They will need to contribute more down the stretch as the starters can’t be expected to play 35 minutes without wearing out at the end of the year. Dino Gregory did hit two big free throws and drew a charge on Michael Snaer in the closing seconds. It was probably under the basket and could have gone either way but the officials gave Maryland the call. Still Gregory continues to struggle with rebounding and Florida State’s 20 offensive rebounds illustrate Maryland’s problems in that area. Gregory’s defensive rebound percentage was a paltry 7% for the game and he needs to get that number up to at least 12-15% or Maryland will lose games only because they give up too many offensive rebounds.

 

Vasquez struggled in the 1st half even though he scored 10 points and shot 5/10 from the floor. He was much more in control in the 2nd half and the crass and racist heckling he received from the stands probably contributed to his scoring that put the Seminoles away. He finished with 23 points on 8/19 shooting but hit all six of his free throws adding 7 rebounds and 7 assists. He also recorded five turnovers and had one of his worst defensive efforts of the year as Derwin Kitchen shot 12/16 with 29 points. Vasquez wasn’t the only Maryland player guarding him but he nearly gave back as many points as he scored. Still, without Vasquez and his timely shooting Maryland wouldn’t have won the game. The racist heckling of the FSU fans is also symptomatic of the hatred that some people who call themselves Maryland fans have for Vasquez. It is pathetic that one of the ten best players in Maryland history is so viciously and hysterically criticized by his own fans because they don’t like his personality. His critics are usually forced to manufacture some erroneous or disingenuous arguments as to why he isn’t a great player even as he passes all-time greats on every significant career record list. You don’t have to love his on the court demonstrations or his ill-conceived declarations in the media but there is no denying that he is one of the greatest Maryland players of the Gary Williams era.

The Terps sit at 5-2 with a two game home stand against a rudderless North Carolina team that seems to have given up on the season and a Virginia squad that is a very good matchup for this squad.

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