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Maryland adapts slowly to EKU's unique style of play

Eastern Kentucky opened up the game Saturday in a 3-2 zone defense. Then the Colonels switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense. Then they went back to the 3-2. Then they tried to go man-to-man for a little bit. Then back to the 3-2. Then to the 1-3-1. And then, you guessed it, back to the 3-2.

It wasn’t a matter of indecisiveness. It was Eastern Kentucky’s defensive game plan. And for considerable stretches of both halves, it was fairly effective.

“We knew coming in what they were going to do, but they switched from a 1-3-1 to a 3-2 and a little bit of man there at the end when they had to,” Maryland senior guard Eric Hayes said after the Terrapins' 83-72 win. “But it’s just one of those things where certain plays work against certain defenses, so you just have to know which defense they're in so we can know which plays to run.”

The primary issue for the Terrapins was that it took them a while to discern that information and execute accordingly. After jumping out to a 16-point lead with just more than 11 minutes remaining in the first half, Maryland went the next 7 1/2 minutes with out making a shot from the field.

By the end of the game, Maryland had shot 46.8 percent, so clearly the Terrapins’ ability to adjust and attack Eastern Kentucky’s varying defensive alignments improved as the game progressed.

“We got 83 points, so, you know, any time teams change defenses you have to be tough with the basketball to make sure that everybody's on the same page,” Coach Gary Williams said. “You take that away if you play defense and they can't score. The problem was there for a while in the second half they were scoring every time, which gave them a chance to get back and set up whatever defense they wanted to.

“If you're rebounding and holding them to one shot and they can't score, sometimes they get into a little bit of trouble with that because they're not sure what defense they're in. They did a good job with it. I thought we attacked it pretty well over the course of the game.”

Indeed, Maryland’s response to Eastern Kentucky’s defensive strategy, especially in the second half, was to attempt to speed up the tempo when the Terrapins were on offense so as not to allow the Colonels time to get set in any defensive position.

As for Maryland’s defensive effort, several players described it as an area in need of considerable improvement. Eastern Kentucky shot 46.6 percent from the field and 47.8 percent (11 for 23) from three-point range Saturday. The Colonels’ two biggest players, Josh Taylor and Justin Stommes, shot a combined 8 for 14 and tallied a combined 28 points.

“Their offense is a different style. It was like last year when we played Michigan and they run that spread offense where both the big guys can step out and shoot,” Hayes said. “Both the big guys on [EKU] could put the ball on the floor and get to the basket, as well. It was a difficult matchup for us. It's just one of those things that you don't see every day."

It wasn't until the final eight minutes of the game that Maryland was able to pull away from Eastern Kentucky for good.

By Steve Yanda  |  December 14, 2009; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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