Choi provides helping hand
As you may have gathered, the Terrapins did not get off to the smoothest of starts Tuesday night against Indiana. Among the recurring themes that resurfaced during the first half was foul trouble for Maryland's post players.
With 2 1/2 minutes to go before intermission, senior forward Landon Milbourne bobbled the ball out of bounds underneath the Maryland basket. This came a little more than three minutes after Milbourne had tossed an errant pass into the first row of the stands. Coach Gary Williams was not pleased, to say the least. Upon Milbourne's second transgression, he stomped down the sideline and signalled for freshman forward James Padgett to head to the scorer's table.
One problem: Padgett already had two fouls. Rather than risk Padgett drawing a third before halftime, Williams changed course and instructed sophomore forward Jin Soo Choi to sub in for Milbourne (who, by the way, also had two fouls at that point).
Choi played only eight minutes Tuesday night, but his role was valuable nonetheless. He subbed in frequently for Milbourne late in the first half when the Terrapins were on defense. He didn't stay in long, but he kept Milbourne from picking up a third foul. Choi was credited with one point and two rebounds on the night, and in fact, Maryland's entire bench tallied just six points. But Milbourne was more generous with praise for the reserves than was the stat sheet.
"It’s good when you’ve got guys coming off the bench that can help out," Milbourne said. "I got in foul trouble, and Jin Soo came off the bench and did a real good job to help me out. And James did the same thing. Things like [foul trouble] just didn’t stop us tonight. We stayed pretty focused.
"If we didn’t have that type of production coming off the bench, it would have been a whole ‘nother story. Maybe Coach would have put me back in there and I would have gotten [more fouls]. ... So just the fact that we have those guys coming off the bench, I can stay out a little bit longer, let some time roll off the clock, get back in there and go to work."
Maryland's bench was even more short-handed than usual Tuesday night. In addition to missing junior forward Dino Gregory (suspension), the Terrapins also were without the services of junior guard Cliff Tucker, who did not play due to what Gary Williams called a "coach's decision." He did not elaborate on Tucker's apparent benching.
Tucker averaged 17.2 minutes per game in Maryland's first six contests. He was shooting 53.8 percent (14 for 26) and averaging 5.7 points per game.
Regardless, Tucker's absence shrunk Maryland's reserve options even further. Sophomore forward Steve Goins also did not play, though unlike Tucker, Goins is not a part of the regular rotation.
Choi, then, was called into limited yet vital action. Milbourne finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. As Gary Williams pointed out, Choi helped make Milbourne's production possible.
"His first foul wasn’t a good foul; that put him in a hole right away," Gary Williams said of Milbourne. "You know, he came up on a guy that’s not known as a three-point shooter, and the guy drove on him and he got the foul. So he had to play smart the rest of the way, and I think he really did a good job. Jin Soo allowed us to play Landon out of there sometimes when we got in defensive situations. We could platoon a little bit. So [Choi] really helped us tonight. We were able to get [Milbourne] through the game, and that was key for us because we really need his inside experience right now."
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