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Dealing With 'An Eraser'

Florida State freshman center Solomon Alabi is an absolute giant. At 7-foot-1, 240 lbs., he absolutely towered over Landon Milbourne, Dave Neal, Dino Gregory and any other Terp who tried his luck at guarding the big man. And yet, Alabi scored just eight points and grabbed just three rebounds. He drew Maryland's attention early, but became a non-factor as the game wore on.

Neal was the player primarily charged with monitoring Alabi in the post. This, Neal has come to discover, is his plight: battling for position each and every ACC game against opponents who are taller and heavier -- but not necessarily stronger -- than he.

Early on, Neal did his best to remain in front of Alabi, and when he got caught behind the Florida State center, he used his forearm to nudge Alabi away from the basket, so that if and when he caught the ball, a hook shot or turnaround jumper would be at least a little more difficult. Neal received some help, too. Whenever Alabi did receive passes in the paint, he immediately was swarmed by at least one -- sometimes two -- Maryland defenders in addition to Neal. Those extra defenders often were guards, such as Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez.

Helping matters for the Terps was Alabi's seeming lack of coordination. He frequently bobbled passes and rebounds. Two Florida State alley-hoop attempts went awry because Alabi missed the dunk. To be fair, his left hand was heavily wrapped, but some of those miscues likely would have been made regardless.

Alabi was much more effective when the Terps were on offense. Venturing into the post was a risky measure, given the presence of Alabi and 6-foot-9 freshman forward Chris Singleton, who combined for eight blocks on the day.

"They’re ridiculous, you know, with how big they are," Gary Williams said. "It’s a tremendous advantage to have an eraser back there that can make up for defensive mistakes, but we know that. We know that coming into this game, and we accept it, that they had a guy like that and we don’t."

This is the third of three ACC games in which Maryland has faced a pair of daunting big men. The first go around was rough -- Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal (6-foot-9) and Alade Aminu (6-foot-10) tallied a combined 28 points and 27 rebounds -- but since then, Neal & Co. have held their own quite well.

Wednesday night against Miami, the Terps went up against Dwayne Collins (6-foot-8) and Cyrus McGowan (6-foot-9). Those two combined to register 10 points and 14 rebounds. During much of the second half, the Hurricanes stopped going into the post at all on offense. That was due, in part, to the fact they trailed by as many as 17 points and planned on living or dying at the three-point line. But it also had to do with Collins and McGowan not having a whole lot of luck producing quality shots.

Saturday, Alabi and Singleton combined for 16 points and nine rebounds. Neither made much noise on offense after the opening minutes.

One of the critical questions for Maryland heading into the season, and especially heading into ACC play was how well its post players would hold up against bigger frontcourts. So far, given their physical limitations, you would have to say they haven't done too bad.

By Steve Yanda  |  January 18, 2009; 10:19 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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No indeed, as you say, defensively they haven't done too badly, not at all. Else our lads would have lost each game by thirty or even more. What's needed now, IMO, is decent shooting. With the exception of the first half in the Miami game, the Terps' haven't shot as well as they should. Will they remain largely 'cold' the rest of the season? Ah, it's in the laps of the Gods.

What's all this nonsense on this thread about replacing GW? He's become a hate object with some 'fans'. Given UMd circumstances, I'll bet no one could do better leading the Terps than Gary Williams.

Posted by: AncientTerp | January 18, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

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