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Tidying Up The Half-court Offense

Gary Williams said yesterday that Charlotte certainly will have his team's attention, which is probably true for a number of reasons:

1) Every coach of every major program in the country lauds each of their nonconference opponents, regardless of whether that opponent deserves it or not. It's just what they do.

2) In this case, at least based on last year's game, Charlotte deserves the attention. The 49ers put a serious scare into the Terps during the second half of last season's contest at Charlotte. Maryland won, but the game was close until the final buzzer sounded.

3) With two games remaining until ACC season begins, there are several areas in which the Terps still need to develop, first and foremost being the half-court offense.

Williams & Co. say they believe the half-court offense is coming along, but there are some specific components that still need to be adjusted. Among them are timing on screens, consistently making hard cuts and remembering all the plays.

"The newer plays we're still trying to get familiar with, still trying to get our timing with, so every once in a while, we'll kind of forget what play it is and we have to kind of think about it and that will kind of slow our offense down," senior forward Dave Neal said.

Neal said the team runs 12 or 13 plays, most of which are the same schemes the Terps ran last season, though a few now have different names. Williams said he would like for the half-court offense to be run quicker, not in a sense of shooting sooner in a possession, but mainly as far as the tempo in which his team operates a set play.

The most common set Maryland runs, according to Neal, is called the "2" play, which is based on a series of screens and ball rotations designed to draw an open shot near the basket or a jump shot from the elbow. Neal said almost all of Maryland's plays end up in the "2" set if initially unsuccessful.

One of the main problems of late for the Terps in their half-court offense has been finding their collective timing.

"I feel like we're in a little bit of a rush," Neal said. "The big thing with us that we've really been pushing on is waiting for our screens. Some of our guards are kind of getting a little excited and trying to get open a little quicker than they should be. I tell Greivis every game to just wait for my screen. I'm a wide body; I'll get him open for easier shots if he'll wait. Every once in a while, he'll wait for a screen and have an open shot."

As Neal mentioned, though, that timing is harder to come by on instances where the Terps on the court are slow to recall the play's design. Sophomore guard Adrian Bowie also acknowledged the team's occassional struggle to remember the offensive plays, something he said will be unacceptable -- and potentially detrimental -- in about a week.

"It happens more than it should happen coming into January about to be in the ACC season," Bowie said. "It's happening too much."

Bowie said there are several subtle indicators that let a ball-handler know when a half-court offense is not running as efficiently as it should. Missing an open man, making sloppy cuts and, yes, forgetting the play all qualify as such.

Williams added another item to the list of indicators, one Neal also referenced.

"I think screening is one thing a coach always looks at," Williams said. "When you screen well, it really doesn't matter what the plays are. If you can screen well, you're going to get open, either the guy you're screening for or the screener is going to get open. When the screener sets good screens he's hard to guard because his man has to help because he opened up the cutter or whatever."

Williams then was asked whether the efficiency of the half-court offense came down to a matter of timing.

"A lot of it's a mental thing," he said. "The players know the plays; it's just focusing on each play, each possession."

By Steve Yanda  |  January 3, 2009; 12:11 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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