Making A Statement
Maryland's beatdown of Delaware State on Friday night did little to prove the merits of most Terrapins. Delaware State was out-classed in just about every area, which meant the accomplishments of, say, Landon Milbourne, Greivis Vasquez and Adrian Bowie against the Hornets should be taken with a grain of salt. Teams like the Terps -- and players like the ones previously mentioned -- should have solid showings against teams like Delaware State.
But for one Terp, Friday night's game provided a significant release from the weeks of troubles that had preceeded it. Sophomore guard Cliff Tucker tallied seven points, six assists and five rebounds against the Hornets in 19 minutes of action. The stats, obviously, were encouraging to Tucker and Gary Williams, but the minute total might have been the most telling number.
Since he was pulled from the starting lineup Nov. 30 against Georgetown, Tucker had seen his playing time decrease dramatically. On the season, Tucker is averaging 5.1 points and 12.9 minutes per game, while shooting 41.3 percent from the field. Last week, Tucker sought answers from Williams.
"The last couple weeks have been tough for me cause I went from starting to basically not playing at all really," Tucker said. "So it was tough for me, but I didn't want to keep myself down. The season's still early. I actually went in there and talked to Coach. He told me to keep my head up and whenever he give me a chance, I've got to go in there and play in order to get back in the rotation. So that's what I've been trying to do and (Friday night) it worked out for me."
According to Tucker, Williams cited Tucker's focus, rather than his play, as the critical issue that was keeping him on the bench. As a result, Tucker said he has tried to adjust his attitude at practice and in games in hopes of winning back over Williams's confidence.
"I just wanted to keep my head in and stay focused and worry about basketball; don't worry about nothing else in life right now," Tucker said. "Just go in there and play hard. If I keep my head down, I'm just going to stay on the bench the whole year, so I've been trying to work hard so that he'll give me a chance to play and show what I can do."
Throughout the game Friday night, Tucker made precise passes and sound decisions with the ball in his hands. Williams had said in recent weeks that Tucker's athleticism and ability never were in question. Rather, it was Tucker's on-court discipline that needed improvement. At least for one night, Tucker addressed Williams's concerns.
"I thought Cliff was really active," Williams said. "He did a lot of things, and that's his game, really, if we can get into transition. He's good in transition situations because he's so athletic. And he's a good passer; he had a couple of great passes in the second half right in front of our bench. Cliff is working his way back."
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