Monday, March 08, 2010

Terps claim ACC title at Virginia

Maryland weathered a dreadful defensive effort in the regular season finale on the road at rival Virginia to claim a share of the ACC regular season championship with Duke. It wasn’t the pop the Champagne kind of game as the scrappy Wahoos, without leading scorer Sylven Landesberg who was suspended for academic reasons, came storming back late in the 2nd half to get within one point at 66-65 with just under two minutes left. Virginia made that run by packing in their defense and forcing Maryland to shoot contested jumpers while also exploiting some poor perimeter defense by the Terps. In a nine minute span Virginia hit 4 out of 5 three point attempts and made 9/12 field goals overall until the technical foul on Virginia coach Tony Bennett. Some pretty terrible defense by the Terps and certainly the worst stretch since the first Duke game. Given Virginia’s modest talent it might have even been the worst defensive effort since the William & Mary loss in December. The 53% shooting by Virginia for the game was the worst mark all year for Maryland in ACC play and the 45% from the 3-point line by the Wahoos was second only to the 47% Maryland allowed against Georgia Tech. Virginia shot a ridiculous 15/23 in the 2nd half, a 65% rate, but the Cavaliers have had a habit of settling for jump shots on offense. This resulted in them shooting only 6 free throws in the 2nd half even though Maryland committed 10 team fouls.

 

While Greivis Vasquez didn’t have his greatest game of the season he made his shots when they counted most. His shot selection was a little spotty throughout the game but with Maryland only ahead by three points and Virginia surging Vasquez hit three 3-point baskets in a row and scored 9 of Maryland’s 11 points in a critical three minute stretch. When Maryland got a double digit lead Vasquez stopped looking to score and only took three shots (missing all three) in the first 12 minutes of the 2nd half. Vasquez also had two critical turnovers late in the game, one on a drive to the basket when Jordan Williams wasn’t looking for a pass and then on a questionable charge call under the basket. After four years it is obvious that you have to live with some reckless plays from Greivis but he makes up for that by being the most clutch player since Juan Dixon. In the last 7 minutes of the game he scored 13 points while the rest of the team combined for eight.

 

Eric Hayes and Sean Mosley continue to be strong scoring options on the wings along with Vasquez. Hayes hit several critical shots going 2/2 from the floor in the 2nd half and finishing with 11 points and 5 assists. There wasn’t much to praise about his defense and he did have 3 turnovers in the 2nd half but he played steady down the stretch even without his normal 3-point shooting. Mosley only took three field goals but got to the foul line 8 times and hit all of them to finish with 10 points, his fourth double digit scoring game in a row. He seems to have shaken off his February funk and is making up for the puzzling disappearance of Landon Milbourne.

 

Milbourne shot 1/7 from the floor and scored five points, his sixth single digit scoring game in the row. During that six game span he is shooting a putrid 31% from the floor. His late season fade is one of the more perplexing collapses for an accomplished senior player I can recall. In his first eight ACC games he scored double digits in seven games averaging 13.4 points per game and shooting 50% from the field. In his last 8 games he has averaged 6.9 points per game and is down to 36.5% shooting. Milbourne has been getting slightly reduced playing time recently but short of injury it is a decline that defies explanation.

Jordan Williams struggled in this game and finished with “only” seven points and 5 rebounds. He really struggled with Jerome Meyinsse who scored 17 points, not all of it on Williams. Thank goodness Virginia didn’t discover Meyinsse until Mike Scott went MIA late in the season. Like the rest of the team the emotional highs of the last few weeks may have caught up to Williams and he had a letdown in this game. He should have been able to have success against Virginia’s unheralded frontcourt but wasn’t able to exploit the matchups.

Dino Gregory gives consistent effort but rarely produces a great game and against Virginia he kept that trend scoring 5 points and grabbing 5 rebounds off the bench. His defense was a little questionable and a breakdown by Gregory lead to a an easy dunk for Virginia. With Milbourne struggling Gregory is likely to see more playing time. James Padgett didn’t see the court against Virginia for some reason.

Adrian Bowie had another excellent game and continues to excel off the bench. In contrast to Milbourne Bowie has improved steadily the last few weeks and is now a dangerous weapon for Gary Williams. He scored 8 points in only 12 minutes and grabbed 3 rebounds. Bowie has made his last 10 field goals in a row and eight of his last nine 3-point attempts. You can tell he is finally getting into the grove of coming off the bench and taking advantage of his opportunities when presented with them.

Cliff Tucker also had a solid game with 5 points and 3 rebounds off the bench. Between the two of them Bowie and Tucker are combining to form some very solid backcourt scoring off the bench. The two are combining to average a very solid 11 points per game as subs. That has helped Maryland to continue winning with Milbourne and Mosley struggling through some slumps.

I wasn’t surprised at all that Tony Bennett was given a technical. If you have read this blog for a few years you know I’m not a big fan of Jamie Luckie. No official who regularly works ACC games calls more technicals than Luckie. Gary Williams and Greivis Vasquez both know this because it was Luckie who called a technical foul against Vasquez for slapping the padded basket support after getting a foul called against Boston College two years ago. It fouled Vasquez out of the game and probably gave Boston College the victory. Tony Bennett hasn’t been around the ACC long enough to know this I’m guessing. Luckie is the last official you want to see you storm onto the court and throw your jacket off protesting a call. The officiating wasn’t great and the crew blew several calls while giving an inconsistent standard of physical play throughout the game. Still the blocking call on Jerome Meyinsse that gave Sean Mosley two free throws with Maryland clinging to a one point lead was a correct call. I’m not sure Mustapha Farrakhan travelled on the prior possession but that may have been a makeup for the charge call on Vasquez that was under the basket. Virginia may have lost anyway as even without the technical Maryland would still have been up three points with 38 seconds left. It was surprising coming from the normally placid Bennett but the frustration of a nine game losing streak bubbled over at that moment. With Landesberg you would think Virginia would have a great chance to win the game given how poorly Maryland played. Perhaps Bennett was thinking the same thing. With the suspensions of Jamil Tucker, Calvin Baker and Landesberg this season it has been a challenging season for Bennett’s first in Charlottesville.

 

With the win at John Paul Jones Arena the Maryland seniors have won at every road site in the ACC with the exception of Miami. Maryland will get the 2 seed in the ACC tournament and face the winner of the North Carolina vs Georgia Tech game. You would think Georgia Tech would win that game but the Yellow Jackets are a confounding team and don’t play that well away from home.

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