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Making The Terps 'Scramble'

Maryland entered halftime last night in good shape, trailing by just six points despite shooting 38.3 percent from the field and making 1 of 6 three-point attempts. As has often been the case this season -- especially early in the ACC schedule -- the team's defense was what kept it within striking distance of its opponent.

But Clemson's approach differed from that of several previous opponents, who seemed either reluctant to hammer the ball into the post early and often or simply resigned to wait to do so until later on. The Tigers consistently fed the ball into forwards Trevor Booker and Raymond Sykes in the opening minutes, which enabled Clemson to diversify its attack as the half wore on.

The Terps had a plan for how to limit the effectiveness of a physically superior opposing frontcourt. They’d honed that ability over the past month of ACC play. The Terps also knew how to disrupt a team with deft long-range shooters. They’d had ample practice dealing with those scenarios, too.

Handling both at the same time, however, proved considerably troubling for Maryland.

"I think Clemson did a good job in the first half of making us scramble a little bit," Gary Williams said.

Clemson’s frontcourt was no bigger or taller than any other that Maryland had faced this season. But unlike previous opponents, the Tigers were intent on feeding the ball into the post from the game’s outset and leaving the Terrapins to deal with the consequences.

Early dunks by Booker and Jerai Grant served as the most direct results of Clemson’s game plan, but there were others. Clemson established interior superiority in the opening minutes, which enabled its guards more room to operate in the lane.

Tigers guard Demontez Stitt slashed into the lane with just less than six minutes remaining in the first half with senior forward Dave Neal and junior forward Landon Milbourne as his only remaining obstacles. But Neal and Milbourne were hesitant to leave their assigned men for fear of another dish-and-dunk. Stitt scored uncontested.

On offense, where the pace was kept on a frenetic setting the Terps typically enjoy, Maryland was unable to find much rhythm.

"We’re not the type of team this year that, you know, we can score in transition when we’re running our transition," Williams said. "But if we get out of that and we don’t get into our halfcourt sets, then we’re in trouble."

Williams remarked that the team ran only six or seven of its half-court offensive sets correctly in the first half. One player thought the offensive performance was worse than even that. Either way, the fact that Maryland's first half deficit stood at six when the horn sounded was impressive if for no other reason than that very little seemed to be going right.

"I think we did a pretty good job in the first half," junior forward Landon Milbourne said. "We were only down by six, and I don’t think we ran one play correctly."

By Steve Yanda  |  February 18, 2009; 7:04 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Dealing With 'The Gretzky'


The positives in the first half were (1) the ability to break their press; (2) reasonably solid defense; and (3) good effort on the boards. The big negative was the inability to make open shots. I like Bowie and Mosley but playing them together really limits our offense. Neither one seems capable of making a jump shot. Bowie hasn’t made a three pointer in eight games and has only made three of them in the last sixteen games while Mosley has only made four three pointers all year. I suspect that Georgia Tech is the only other team in the ACC that has guards who can’t shoot. It is as big a disadvantage as our inside play in conference games.

Posted by: gw67 | February 18, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I thought the Terps had stolen a six-point deficit in the first half as well. It turned out that we were not able to capitalize.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | February 18, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Despite how they played the opportunity was there to go into the half up. The last 90 seconds of the first half killed the Terps. Clemson had all the momentum going into the half and came out ready to play in the second half. If MD goes in up 2 or 4, which it looked like they would when everyone thought Greivas was going to the line on an and 1 to put them up a bucket, Clemson might have wilted like they did at UVA. Those last ninety seconds were killer...

Posted by: Lee26 | February 18, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

It seems to me that in several games, as long as we stay close, we play well and the other team doesn't put a run on. As soon as we start making dumb mistakes and the other team gets a lead of 8-10 points, we get blown out. We never are able to right the ship and go back to playing even. It seems we can play with most teams even with our size issues for a half or more, but then the bottom falls out of it. Are other good coaches figuring out the defensive weaknesses and getting that much better through the game, or are we getting tired or what? I definitely agree with the above post that says playing Mosely and Bowie at the same time hurts our offensive flexibility, and how many shots inside 5 ft does Mosely miss? Seems like a lot. If he is afraid to shoot inside we are better off dribbling or passing out and resetting. I really do like Mosely and he is just a freshman, but it also seems every time he misses one of those inside shots, he fouls the rebounder. I know I have seen it at least 6 times in ACC play. He must learn that when you don't get your own two you can't give them another free two. Last night it wasn't a shooting foul, but still. I have been hard on Vasquez all season because of what he brings on himself but it seems to me he can't win. if he shoots too much to keep us in the game he is a ball hog, and if he distributes the ball too much he is so out of synch that he is largely innefective. That seemed to be the case last night. When he doesn't look for his shot, he looks confused. Not a rap on him at all. He needs a bit more help so he can play his natural game. Of course that is ball hog, but it works for him LOL.

Lastly, I don't know if it is the language barrier or not but Kim is lost out there. He should have gone to a JC and learned to play a bit more before trying a div 1 school. The other kid Gregory looks like he may have some potential, but he is too scared to let his game go. He never looks to the basket. When he gets the ball he looks scared and is just trying to get rid of it to anyone he can. And what ever happened to Burney? Is he hurt or is he just in the doghouse?

Posted by: dbrine1261 | February 18, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

We are so bad. how anyone thinks we have a chance to make the ncaa tourney is beyond me. I felt like i used to feel watching md play some joke at the beginning of the season. It was a complete mismatch, and just because we stayed in it for the first doesnt mean anything. All you had to do was watch the frontcourt play. we are terrible. 5-11, 6-10 best case scenario

Posted by: tonytroese | February 18, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

The road game at Clemson last night was the toughest game left on the schedule. Hopefully MD comes home, reads everyone doubting them, gets fired up, and goes out and shocks UNC Saturday. If the Terps can get through the muderers row of @Clemson, UNC, Duke going 1-2 or 2-1 the season isn't over.

Posted by: Lee26 | February 18, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Of course it isn't over. It isn't over until we get passed over in the NIT.

I'm all for supporting the team. I'm all for holding your head high and giving it your best shot.

But let's face the facts. The team as it is currently composed is underacheiving. Gary is underachieving. Why do I as a fan, have to apologize for having higher standards than l tourney "appearance" in the past four years? Gary may be right that he's set the bar high, but after that we get excuses about recruiting.

Do you know what it was about the 2001 team that caught everyone's imagination? After the Gone in 54 secodns debacle, the fans booed mercilessly. Gary and the team went into the bunker and decided amonst themselves that they weren't going to take it anymore. They came out like they were playing with house money and slapped everyone else around on the way to the Final Four.

The unspoken statement was that we weren't going to get punked. This year's team seems to be OK with getting punked. We just lost, late in the season by nearly 30. I will stand with Gary, I will stand with this team. I will also tell them that it is unacceptable to let someone punk you on a 25-8 run.

Classic letdown game.

When I hear "I dont think we ran one play right", yeah, there's your problem.

Posted by: mabkhar | February 18, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

the problem is that clemson had a practically flawless stretch in the second half and scored on 11 of 12 possessions, with five 3's. everything clemson threw up went in, covered or not. the terps didn't play badly, clemson just clicked unbelievably for about five minutes of game time. that pretty much blew the terps out of the water and it was game over.

but underachieving? you clearly aren't familiar with the bob wade years. we have one senior on the team and he didn't play big minutes before this year, so it's still a young team. when i compare our players last night head to head with clemson's, there is no comparison. clemson's just way more physically imposing across the board and it was pretty obvious our guys wore down in the second half.

i doubt any team fears the turtle at this point, but if they take a win for granted, well, how many #1s has gary knocked off in his career?

Posted by: rm0659 | February 18, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

with duke and unc still on the sched u think clemson was the toughest game and there is cause for optimism? i'll send you a box of cleanex for your tears and some pepto for your upset stomach cuz you are gonna have the blues puttin your faith in the terps this season. need i mention the morgan state loss at home, that ended up being a tough game too huh?

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | February 18, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Statistically speaking AT Clemson is a harder game than Duke or UNC or Wake at home. Just the facts.

Posted by: Lee26 | February 18, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

so what if unc, duke & wake are still left? nc state and uva are also on the schedule and those are very winnable games. taking those two puts us at 7 wins in the conference. steal one of three from the big boys, win the two we probably should = .500 in the conference but with the dreaded 19 wins. the big dance is quite possible, but hardly a given.

and i tell ya, it feels a lot better to be doing more with less (maryland) than it does to be doing less with more (georgetown).

Posted by: rm0659 | February 18, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

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