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.
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