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Terps Count On Their Defense

The saving grace of this Maryland team might be that it has the ability to play solid defense, emphasis being placed on "might" and "ability." The half-court offense, as has been frequently discussed, is not fully functional as of now. There's a good chance it won't be fully functional at the start of ACC play. Heck, there's a chance it might not become fully functional all season.

Regardless, several players have said they believe this team can succeed to a certain extent solely by virtue of its relentless defense and transition offense. It would seem crucial, then, that the Terps actually play relentless defense on a nearly-consistent basis, no?

Against Charlotte on Saturday, Maryland did not display its usual aggression on defense from the start of the game. It took the Terps a while to get over the shock that the 49ers actually came to play. Players said afterward they expected to face an athletic Charlotte squad, but not one that could seemingly shoot the lights out.

"They were 7-for-14 in the first half," junior forward Landon Milbourne said Saturday. "That's not good defense, especially for us. We don't give away threes like that. We can't do that, especially with this upcoming ACC season guys are going to be able to shoot so we've got to take away open looks."

Maryland eventually got its act together (with the help of some, shall we say, enthusiastic implorations from Gary Williams) and pressed the 49ers into submission. Whether the Terps will be able to get away with such defensive lapses once ACC season begins remains to be seen. It would seem Milbourne, for one, believes not.

Here is where Maryland ranks among its conference foes in a few defensive categories:

  • Scoring defense -- fifth (61.6 ppg allowed)
  • Field goal percentage defense -- seventh (39.7 percent allowed)
  • Three-point field goal percentage defense -- fifth (30.0 percent allowed)
  • Steals -- sixth (8.1 per game)
  • Blocked shots -- sixth (5.0 per game)

So, it would seem the Terps are good enough at least to remain competitive on most nights based on the efforts of its A-game defense alone. But, unless Maryland's offense begins to click on a more regular basis, it will take just that -- its best defensive effort over the course of an entire 40-minute period. That type of energy level is difficult to sustain for an entire game, much less game after game after game after ... you get the picture.

Ask the Terps and many will say they believe they can sustain themselves on defense and transition points on most nights. If the half-court offense comes around, all the better.

"I mean, I don't know if it will be enough," junior guard Eric Hayes said Saturday. "Some of the games, we're going to need to have a complete game of half-court offense and transition, but I think if we're doing that well enough, you know, it can take us a long way."

By Steve Yanda  |  January 6, 2009; 7:07 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Scouting Morgan State


When you look at the "Tempo Free Stats" all of these ranks basically go up a spot. The Terps rank 21st nationally (4th ACC) in Defensive efficiency. Basically if you have 100 possessions against MD you score 88 points. The offensive efficiency (91st nationally, 8th ACC) really isn't as bad as you think because they don't turn the ball over. Every 100 possessions MD scores 105 points. If the team doesn't suffer any major injuries (Milbourne, Hayes, Vasquez) and continues to improve (as it should being so young) this team shoudl easily win 8, 9, 10 ACC games. I think for the first time in 5 years the future is bright in College Park. The curse of the Comcast Center has been lifted!

Posted by: Lee26 | January 6, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't think you can rely on these statistics to say that Maryland's defense is only "good enough at least to remain competitive." The teams you comparing Maryland to have played vastly different schedules. Consider that Wake Forest, the leader in this category at 36.4%, has played one of the weakest schedules in the conference. Does that mean that Wake is the best defensive team? I don't think we can answer that yet. I would not expect to see Wake leading this category in a month.

One more comment: Maryland allows 61.6 ppg, good for 5th as you say. Yet Maryland is actually closer to being 1st in the league, than 6th (only 1.4 pts separate the top 5 teams). I think Maryland is better at defense than you are giving them credit for.

Posted by: eric_the_red | January 6, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Totally off topic, but I wanted to say 'Thank you' for the great coverage of the Terps football team this year. The blog is great and much appreciated. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: aviscardo | January 6, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I second the notion on the football blog. Any insider scoop on whats going on with DHB and the draft? I really want him to stay...unless he drops to the Giants with the 32nd pick and picks up where Burress left off before he shot himself in the leg...

Posted by: Lee26 | January 6, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

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