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When No Defensive Scheme Will Do

There are some nights when no matter what a team does defensively, it simply won't matter. The opposing offense is too efficient, too deft, too strong, too quick, too accurate, too overwhelming.

There also are some nights when a team's defensive intensity and focus go missing. The opposing offense gets too many open looks and not enough obstruction in its efforts to move the ball downcourt.

In Maryland's case, both of those types of nights combined into a complete defensive letdown last night against North Carolina. The Tar Heels' offense was really, really good. The Terps' defense was really, really bad. And that, of course, is not what Gary Williams was hoping for.

Williams had the Terps open the game in man-to-man defense. North Carolina countered by scoring 14 points in a little over four minutes. Later on, Maryland switched to a zone look on defense. It had worked Saturday night against Miami, as well as at several other points previously this season. But the Tar Heels kept on knocking down shots.

"We switched to zone with the idea that maybe we’d get them out of their rhythm," Williams said. "We’ve done that before this year and its worked, but they continued to make them. The biggest thing we did, whether in man or zone, was we didn’t fly at shooters. We kind of stayed on the floor when you have to get up in their face. We didn’t do that, and they’re too good to give them those kinds of looks."

North Carolina shot an astounding 11 for 15 (73.3 percent) from three-point range in the first half, and as a result, scored 60 points. By comparison, Maryland did a much better job containing the Tar Heels in the second half, when North Carolina made only 50.0 percent of its three-pointers and scored only 48 points.

"I think our defense wasn’t ready to play," Williams said. "Against a team like Carolina any inkling at all that you’re not ready to play, I think they’re really good at taking advantage of that situation. In other words, they seize the opportunity and just really go after you."

North Carolina's three-point shooting mastery came down, essentially, to the efforts of three players. Shooting guard Wayne Ellington shot 7 for 9 from beyond the arc and scored 34 points. Point guard Ty Lawson shot 4 for 5 from three-point range and finished with 21 points. Swingman Danny Green hit 4 of 6 shots from beyond the arc and tallied 16 points.

After the game, Williams was asked if he could remember ever playing against a team whose shooters were so locked in.

"I don’t remember, really," Williams said. "There’s no flukes, either. I don’t remember too many of them hitting the rim."

By Steve Yanda  |  February 4, 2009; 7:06 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: White Chooses Maryland


I'll take the positives on this one. At least we scored 91 against them. That's more than twice what we scored against Duke. It's not going to get us in the tournament, but it's a start.

Posted by: ecglotfelty | February 4, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Yes, the positives here were strong. Our guys played with force and energy and the game was exciting to watch. It seems, however, that most Terp opponents can make a high proportion of their three-point attempts. Still, the Terps' skills are steadily improving and next year's team may well be a solid NCAA tournament candidate just as coach Williams predicted.

Posted by: AncientTerp | February 4, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

The next 2 games are absolutely critical for the Terps @GT and VT. For them to stay alive (barely that is) for a NCAA berth that have to win these games.

I haven't given up hope yet but, if we lose 1 of these 2 we may be finished.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 4, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

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