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Posted at 9:09 AM ET, 01/12/2011

Just shoot the ball!

By Rick Nelligan

To this point in the season, it seems like the only teams the Terps can beat are the same one’s I played in high school. When it’s come to ranked opponents, Maryland has been maddeningly frustrating. And not because they look inept or are just getting blown out. In fact, it’s exactly the contrary.

For the most part, the Terps have looked the best they have all season against ranked opponents. Obviously, that comes with an asterisk considering they have lost every game they have played against quality opponents. It always seems to come down to one or two things that keeps the Terps from getting over the hump.

Some will say it's inconsistent play out of the point guards. A few more will mention the mental lapses that seem to surface from time to time. Even more will mention our dreadful free throw shooting. Every single one of those opinions is correct (ESPECIALLY the free throw shooting.) But there is one thing I’ve noticed that is holding the Terps back from beating the upper-tier squad -- the Terps lack aggressiveness offensively, especially from beyond the arc.

What I noticed in the Terps game against Duke on Sunday night, was once the Blue Devils decided to double- and even triple-team Jordan Williams, the Terps had absolutely no answer offensively. I know many of you are saying, “Well yeah, no (expletive) genius, when you take out our best player it’s tough to score on offense.”

It’s more than that though. Williams has been surprisingly good at finding the open man when he’s been double-teamed. The biggest favor our guards can do for him is to take the open shots when they are available, especially three-pointers. If the Terps aren’t giving their opponents any reason to guard the three-point line, then what reason do they have to ever back off Jordan Williams?

It seems as if the Terps go-to move is to pump fake nobody, then drive to the basket where the same players who were just double- and triple-teaming Williams are waiting to at least alter their shot, if not block it deep into the cheap seats. The guards must step up and be prepared to put the game on their shoulders from time to time. Instead, it seems as if they are afraid of being the “goat” if they miss the big shot.

The most surprising part about it is the biggest offenders seem to be Adrian Bowie and Sean Mosley. Coming out of high school, Bowie was touted as one of the better shooters in the country. Now it seems as if he’s been in Gary Williams’ doghouse so much that he’s terrified of going back in if he misses a shot.

As for Mosley, I can only imagine the comments I’m going to get for calling him out. But he is the highest rated recruit on this team right now, and has the offensive skillset to take over games at will. However, this season he’s only scored 14 or more in three games, and has scored in single digits nine times. Not only is Mosley way better than that, but the Terps desperately need him to be better. I long for the days of his patented pull up jumper from the free throw line.

I’m not calling for the Terps to start chucking up shots to seem more aggressive, but they really need to start taking their open jumpers or they will be in serious danger of finishing the season in the NIT. According to Joe Lunardi, ESPN’s resident “bracketologist,” the Terps are among the first four teams out of the big dance. Considering the Terps have yet to post a win better than College of Charleston, it’s hard to argue.

The good news is that the Terps still have a chance to turn things around with two matchups against top-10 teams in the next month. First up is a road game against seventh-ranked Villanova on Jan. 15, followed by another war with top-ranked Duke at Comcast on Feb. 2. If the Terps lose those two, I don’t care how many other games they win, Maryland will be this year’s Virginia Tech.

Shortly after the season started, a commenter on one of my posts noted that the player the Terps would miss most would be Eric Hayes, not Greivis Vasquez. I never imagined that being the case, but looking at it now, it couldn’t be truer.

What do you think is the cause of the Terps struggles against quality opponents this season? Where do they need to improve the most? Let’s hear what you think Terrapin Nation.

By Rick Nelligan  | January 12, 2011; 9:09 AM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  
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Well said my man, I couldn't agree more.

Posted by: Matte | January 12, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I agree but remember they are a very young team. It is very maddening but I know this won't be the year for them. I'm certainly hoping next year is and that they cure the these nagging issues they're experiencing now that are preventing them from taking it to the next crucial level.

Posted by: joba1 | January 12, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

The biggest disappointment has definitely been Mosley. He's way too unselfish and almost seems afraid to take big shots. I was expecting Mosley to be the #2 offensive threat after Williams, not Tucker. I love the intangibles he brings with his defense and hustle but he needs to utilize the offensive game that nobody he even knows he possesses.

Next year this will be Mosley's team to lead as one of the lone seniors for the Terps. He certainly hasn't shown that he is ready to lead this team from his play on offense.

Posted by: morelandjeremy | January 14, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

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