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Williams's Growing Comfort With the Zone

Following Saturday's loss to Duke in the ACC tournament semifinals, Maryland Coach Gary Williams talked about the 3-2 zone defense that, for one of the few times all season, had not been too effective. He said he's used more zone defense this season than in any other of his coaching career, and he didn't seem bothered by that fact at all.

On Tuesday, Williams spoke again of his growing comfort with utilizing defensive zone schemes. Don't get him wrong: He still considers himself a man-to-man defense kind of guy. But he's also not nearly as hesitant to stray from one-on-one matchups if certain situations arise.

"For me as a coach, I've gained confidence in the zone," Williams said. "The first time you do it and they hit a jump shot or something, you turn to your assistants who had the bright idea to go zone, and you go: 'See? You can't play zone.' But we've gained confidence with it as we've gone along and hopefully it's a good defense for us."

Williams said one opportune time to use a zone defense is when he's trying to protect a player who has obtained multiple fouls.

"If you want to gamble with a guy, say, with three fouls early in the second half, it's easier to have him on the court in a zone than in man-to-man," Williams said. "If a guy gets a second foul late in the first half, you might want to go zone those last couple minutes to keep that player on the court. It allows you to maybe get a few more minutes out of some key players by going zone."

As the Blue Devils revealed during the second half on Saturday, zone defenses are susceptible to outside shooting. Duke's Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson found the holes in Maryland's 3-2 zone defense (the corners), which forced Maryland to spread out in its formation. That, in turn, opened up spots along the wing, from which the Blue Devils connected.

California, Maryland's opponent on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament, possesses the top three-point shooting percentage (43.4 percent) in the country. And that fact seems to be giving Williams some pause as to whether he'll have his team execute any defensive zone looks against the Golden Bears.

"You know, you wonder about Cal with their three-point shooting whether it's the right defense for them or not," Williams said. "When you're not a zone coach, that's when you have all those doubts come into play."

By Steve Yanda  |  March 18, 2009; 10:22 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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