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Quick Hands And Sudden Shifts Lead Defensive Charge

Ninety-three seconds into yesterday's contest, A.D. Vassallo already was backed into a corner. Dribbling the ball just past mid-court, Vassallo could not retreat lest he draw a back-court violation. He could not dribble to his left, where Sean Mosley was positioned. And he could not dribble to his right, where Greivis Vasquez was serving as a human road block. The path straight ahead was obstructed, as well, by dual-presence of Mosley and Vasquez, who systematically enclosed the space Vassallo had in which to operate.

Without many viable options, Vassallo slung a pass wide to his right where, moments earlier, a teammate had stood. But through all the waving arms and suffocating commotion around him, Vassallo did not see his teammate move on to a different spot on the court. By the time he realized as much, the ball had sailed out of bounds. Maryland regained possession.

Such was the plight of VaTech's ballhandlers for much of yesterday's game. Maryland's defense was consistently intense, even if proof did not show up on the final stat sheet.

Mosley, once again, was a driving force for Maryland on defense. He tallied three steals and was involved in many plays that contributed to VaTech offensive miscues.

"With Sean, he’s always working, so I think, percentage-wise, he’s going to get a piece of the ball sooner or later because his hands are always working," Gary Williams said. "In other words, his hands might not be faster than some other guy, but because he’s in there all the time digging he’s going to get his share."

Reserve guard Cliff Tucker also played a critical role on defense for the Terps, specifically late in the game when Vasquez was plagued by foul trouble and had to spend more time than anticipated on the bench.

Tucker had an off night offensively and tallied just one steal and one block. But his performance was far more valuable than his stat line would indicate.

With 10:20 remaining in the first half, Vassallo pulled up for a three-point attempt in transition, but the shot was blocked by Tucker, who soared in from behind.

"He gives you another athlete, a guy that’s very quick in terms of getting to the ball," Williams said. "He can make a play. In other words, if your offense breaks down and things aren’t going well, all of the sudden there’s Cliff coming out of the pack with the ball, and he’s gonna make something happen on the other end of the court. And defensively, I can see it in him now; he’s starting to take a challenge. He wanted to guard Vassallo out there a couple of times down the stretch and things like that when Greivis was in foul trouble."

Mosley and Tucker are just two examples, but nearly each Terp at some point made a play defensively that was significant in its own way. This is the kind of effort Maryland will need as its heads into easily the most daunting portion of its schedule.

By Steve Yanda  |  February 15, 2009; 2:12 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Steve, a few weeks ago you claimed that a 9-7 record in the ACC is what the Terps need "to have even a chance to earn a bid." As ridiculous as that comment was, your dismissive response to my questioning the comment was even more absurd:

"Thanks for the feedback. I'll try harder to be more intelligent next time." -Steve

Today your colleague Prisbell writes in the paper that the Terps could have a "reasonable" shot at a bid with an 8-8 record in the ACC--exactly what I told you weeks ago. To get to 8-8, we'll have to beat at least one team currently in the top 10, which could easily propel the Terps to the NCAA tournament, especially with a win or 2 in the ACC tourney.

So, Steve, why don't you have some journalistic integrity and admit you were wrong. Your preposterous assertion that we need to be 9-7 "to have even a chance" shows just how inexperienced you are on this beat.

Looking forward to seeing you on the high school girls field hockey beat in the coming years.

Posted by: Barno1 | February 15, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

you say to get to 8 - 8, Terps would have to beat a team currently ranked in the top 10. They have games with Clemson, NC State and UVA left. None of those teams are currently (most recent polls = Feb 9) ranked in the top 10 of either the AP or ESPN/USA. If they win those 3, they will have at least 8 wins.

Posted by: erniegogo | February 15, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Ernie, Clemson is ranked number 8 in the RPI, and 11th in the ESPN/USA Today Poll.

Posted by: Barno1 | February 15, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes Barno , and 11 is not "top 10" and RPI is an index, not a poll. Both are moot since Clemson lost to UVA today and will drop at least a few spots.

A much sweeter path to the NCAAs would be to dump Duke in a massive pay back for last month's debacle down there and win 2 or even 3 others.

Posted by: erniegogo | February 15, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Ernie, I didn't say top 10 "in a poll." I said top 10 period. And you are a moron for pressing this point.

Posted by: Barno1 | February 15, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Well, I don't see the need to resort to name calling. Interesting that you were insistent on Steve Y admitting he was wrong but you can't.

Posted by: erniegogo | February 15, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Clemson is a road game. top 15 on the road is just as good a win in the selection committees eyes as top 5 at home. Even better actually. Just an FYI.

Posted by: Lee26 | February 16, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Lets forget the polls and just win out.

Posted by: terpin | February 16, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

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