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Wake's 1-3-1 Zone Defense Causes Terps Headaches

Wake Forest defenders proved susceptible in the first half to wandering away from their assigned men in attempts to provide help on whichever Terp had the ball. Maryland players noticed as much and simply passed to their suddenly open teammates.

With just more than eight minutes remaining before the intermission, freshman guard Sean Mosley looped underneath the basket, drawing Wake Forest post players Chas McFarland and James Johnson to his side. Standing all by his lonesome was sophomore forward Braxton Dupree, who had to wait only a few seconds before Mosley fired him the ball. Dupree finished with a dunk. McFarland and Johnson exchanged exasperated glances as they marched down the court.

In the first half's final minute, junior guard Greivis Vasquez dribbled left, leapt into the air and looked to his right. Following Vasquez's eyes, two Wake Forest defenders shifted accordingly, but Vasquez rifled a no-look pass to Mosley, who finished an uncontested lay-in.

Using misdirection and a whole lot of hustle, Maryland sustained a lead for most of the first half. The Terps exposed the holes in Wake's man-to-man defense and were rewarded with numerous open looks.

But in the second half, Wake used more of its 1-3-1 zone defensive look and Maryland struggled to adapt. The lane was more difficult to navigate. Passing lanes were more congested. Clean looks were harder by which to come.

Responsible for an area, rather than a specific Maryland player, the Demon Deacons were able to flow along whatever path the ball headed, which made them more difficult to fool with misdirection.

After shooting 44.1 percent from the field in the first half, the Terps shot 34.3 percent after the intermission.

"In the second half, we just couldn’t move as well as we did in the first half, and that hurt us," Gary Williams said. "We have to, against a team with that size, use our speed, and we just, uh, didn’t seem to have it there for a while. And their zone is big. It’s just really long. They spread out out there. We had trouble with the passing angles. And the open shots that we did get, they didn’t kick in there for while."

By Steve Yanda  |  March 4, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Comments

"We have to, against a team with that size, use our speed, and we just, uh, didn’t seem to have it there for a while. And their zone is big. It’s just really long. They spread out out there. We had trouble with the passing angles. And the open shots that we did get, they didn’t kick in there for while."

By Steve Yanda | March 4, 2009; 7:00 AM ET

Including "uh" in a quote is a slimy tactic used by reporters who intend to make the person they are quoting look bad. And Steve Yanda wonders why Gary Williams now ignores him at press conferences. Like I've said before, Yanda had better stop this crap soon or he will find himself working the girls high school volleyball beat next year (see Josh Barr).

Posted by: Barno1 | March 4, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

This wasn't the first game the Terps faced a second half zone. There are a lot of teams with the same problem. I think it comes down to the physical stature of your players. I'm not rapping them just stating a case. When you are holding the ball instead of moving it around, when you don't have the reliable 40% 3 point shooter or a guy who can drive with consistency while someone grabs the offensive rebound for a put back you are forced to rely on open looks. Rarely do Milbourne or Mosley come in often enough for the other team to drop off the paint and go out looking for someone. There's no Neitzel or Flynn, or Summers, MacNamara. I mean you could not leave MacNamara alone last year or any year for that matter. He gave Cuse that edge they needed when their big men couldn't find the right shoes to wear. But don't get married to GW because he won a pennant once. He's a coach who measures his stature by his team's results than walks off the court wounded but ready to try again. But most head coaches are like that. Izzo is respected his hot headedness notwithstanding. Jay Wright could run for office and I think Jim Calhoun represents CT in the US Senate. I mean some of these guys have built a following we generally reserve for more worthy adversaries like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin.

Will GW recruit from outside his domain? Of course he will. He has UA at his side with a checkbook now. But don't tell me he's any better at getting a team ready than Coach K or Roy. Coach K gave a goodbye hug and kiss to Paulus last night and he benched this guy for Williams lately.

It would be nice to see the Terps win but not at all costs. Just some cost maybe. Like get a team that can win by that I mean a balanced offense and defense. You don't have to have Beasely to win. Maybe Durant. No just kidding. Leave the Calhoun's to their press agents and give us a team we enjoy watching not aggravate over. That's all I ask. If GW's fans and apparently he has more now than a month ago don't like it than too bad. He's just a coach.

Posted by: KraftPaper | March 4, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

There may be a connection between the shoes the MD program is paid to wear, and the team's ability to play against the zone and the slow-down game. Are the Terps sacrificing wins for the sake of their shoe contact? Money may be behind all this, as an investigative series would likely reveal.

Posted by: EdDC | March 4, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

"But don't tell me he's any better at getting a team ready than Coach K or Roy. Coach K gave a goodbye hug and kiss to Paulus last night and he benched this guy for Williams lately."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Good one!

Posted by: Lee26 | March 4, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

The 1-3-1 really confused the Terps, perhaps they weren't prepared for it, and I'm really surprised Wake did not use it more considering how successful it was, especially at generating transition baskets for the Deacons. However, the Terps do have two pretty reliable 3-point shooters in Vasquez and Hayes (I'd even say Tucker and Neal are pretty reliable too), and they got a few pretty good looks in the second half against the 1-3-1 that were solid but just didn't go. The biggest problem against the 1-3-1 was that the Terps were not penetrating it enough to get it out of position, particularly since Wake was trying to trap out of it as well. Vasquez and Hayes were not aggessive attacking the 1-3-1, and were just lobbing the ball back and forth 35 feet away from the basket and daring Wake to bring the trap. The Terps did, for the most part, avoid turning the ball over too much against the 1-3-1 and avoided getting stuck in the corners, but as has been shown in previous games, the Terps do not run great zone offense, and look to shoot over it instead of slicing through it. They have great slashing players in Milbourne, Tucker, and Bowie, but the ball always stayed on top against the zone with Vasquez and Hayes who have a tendancy to turn the ball over penetrating into a collapsing zone or throwing up silly shots.

It really wasn't hard to see the zone, even at floor level, and I wonder if they had spent any time practicing against it on Monday (Wake has used it a number of times this year with success, most notably against Duke). Perhaps another day of practice may have helped the Terps get ready for the 1-3-1 and may have changed the outcome of the game.

The rebounding was pretty attrocious, but I was impressed how much better the Terps rebounded out of the zone than the man defense. Manning up against the quicker Deacons really proved futile, and while time was running out at the end of the game, the zone may have kept Wake off the boards in the waining moments, but Gary went back to the man defense (perhaps frustrated by Teague's facial on Neal). The entire defensive game strategy was sound, and Gary was willing to give up threes and offensive boards and turn the game into a grider, but sadly Wake flexed its muscle and the Terps missed some critical shots down the stretch.

It's not over, but the Terps will need to refocus, and continue to play like they have the past 5 games. If they do, everything will work out, and Gary will deliver another NCAA tournament appearance this year.

Posted by: Russtinator | March 4, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

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