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Adjusting To The Opposition

Yesterday during the ACC coaches' teleconference, Miami Coach Frank Haith talked about the difficulties that can arise when playing a team with a smaller lineup, such as Maryland. The Terrapins befuddled the Canes for much of the second half Saturday night and apparently left quite an impression on the visiting coach.

"In our game the other night, instead of us, because we couldn't guard 'em with our bigger lineup and we had to eventually size down, and they play better a size down than we do because we don't do it much," Haith said. "I think that's why they've had some success. Particularly in our game, we could not overwhelm them with what we do, because of our inability to guard (Landon) Milbourne and (Dave) Neal on the perimeter. And they've gone to playing a little bit of a zone in the second half. Gary hasn't played that much zone in his whole career, and I think that's slowed the tempo down and lessened the possessions."

Neal said yesterday that the Terps have continued to hone their 3-2 zone defense, which they have run with great success several times this season, and that he thought they would use it tonight against North Carolina. The Tar Heels prefer an up-tempo pace with as many offensive possessions as possible, and if Maryland's zone defense can slow things down as much as it did against Miami, it might not be a bad option.

"Whenever you play a zone, I think it throws teams off," Neal said. "I guess they don't practice against it as much as they do man-to-man, because man's usually the basic defense for most teams. When you throw a 3-2 zone out there, even a 3-2 is a little different than a 2-3, and I guess teams maybe aren't used to it. Last game, it kind of took Miami out of their flow. They definitely were out of sync. They acted like they'd never seen a zone before."

For much of the second half, the Hurricanes opted to use a smaller lineup, adjusting to Maryland's quickness rather than trying to make the Terps adjust to Miami's superior size. As a result, Miami forward Dwayne Collins saw limited minutes after halftime. He finished with five points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes. And it certainly wasn't foul trouble that kept him on the bench. Collins wasn't whistled for a single infraction all night.

"I guess the thing that hurt Miami, they felt they couldn't play Collins a lot," Gary Williams said. "First of all, we played well. You don't have to make any adjustments if the other team's not playing well. You just go with what you have because that's good enough to beat them. But we shot 50 percent in the second half, which we had not been doing. We scored 44 in the second half; we hadn't been scoring that many points. They adjusted to us. I noticed Collins wasn't in there. I didn't really notice a whole lot of other things because they'd been playing most of those guys all year."

Even if that was the only significant adjustment the Hurricanes made, it still was a big one. And if Maryland can continue to shoot the ball as well, or even close to as well, as it did in the second half Saturday night, the Terps might be able to force other foes to make similar moves.

Well, most other foes, at least.

"When you take out one of their best players, that's kind of key," Neal said. "Teams are going to have to adjust to us. We have our starting five, and that's what our starting five is going to be. We're undersized and we're going to obviously cause defensive matchups that's not going to be for me 'cause I'm an undersized five man, but I can go off and shoot three's, so that's going to cause matchups that aren't good for the other team. We'll see if (North Carolina forward) Tyler (Hansbrough) can do it. We know he's pretty versatile, too. He's shooting the three a little bit more. But I think Carolina will be alright. They're not going to change their lineup like Miami did."

By Steve Yanda  |  February 3, 2009; 7:04 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Could Mr Yanda tell us why the Terps play Carolina at Chapel Hill year after year?

Posted by: AncientTerp | February 3, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

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