Maryland pulls away late from Eastern Kentucky, 83-72
Eastern Kentucky sure was pesky, but Maryland surged with about eight minutes to go and secured the win. It wasn't pretty, but it'll due for now. The Terrapins welcomed back junior forward Dino Gregory, who returned from an eight-game suspension. The Terrapins also welcomed back senior guard Greivis Vasquez, though in an entirely different sense.
Vasquez has gotten off to a slow start offensively this season, but if his performance Saturday was any sort of indication -- and Gary Williams & Co. sure hope it was -- his fortunes may be beginning to take a turn for the better.
The Terrapins built a 16-point lead early in the first half before going on an offensive droubt that spanned seven and a half minutes. Eastern Kentucky flustered Maryland by frequently alternating defensive alignments and using its post players as three-point shooters on offense. But Maryland recovered in time to pull out the win.
"Players are kids," Gary Williams said. "In certain areas, they’re kids. In certain areas, they’re very mature. Eighteen to 22, you might not respect a team as much as a coach does. I knew how they played. I knew it was going to be tough. But to get that message through is tough sometimes because Eastern Kentucky doesn’t sound the same as North Carolina to a lot of our players, which can be a problem. Hopefully you learn with a win. It’s tough to learn these things with losses."
1) Greivis Vasquez. At the very least, you can assume Vasquez's eccentric on-court persona has returned for good. As for his offensive talents, well, Saturday was a positive sign. The senior guard tallied a team-high 20 points on 7 of 14 shooting. He also recorded six rebounds, five assists and just two turnovers.
"When I attack and drive and make guys involved, you know, and I don’t think too much about my shot, that’s when I hit the big shots under pressure," Vasquez said. "It was all mental. This was a great game for me just to sit out on the bench and see everything from the outside in and look at myself and get back to what I am. I’m the crazy guy that plays at Maryland that’s trying to make plays and sometimes people don’t believe it, and that’s who I am. So I’m going to be myself from now on. I’m going to get back to rebounding the ball and being aggressive defensively."
2) Landon Milbourne. With Vasquez returning to the spotlight, Milbourne also returned to a familiar role -- turning in a quality performance with relative silence. Milbourne scored 19 points and pulled down nine rebounds. He shot 6 for 13 from the field and made all seven of his free throws. Was Milbourne aided by Gregory's return to the starting lineup? You could argue convincingly that in this game it did. Gregory took up space in the lane and attracted the attention of the biggest guy Eastern Kentucky had on the court at any given time.
3) Eric Hayes. As was mentioned earlier, Eastern Kentucky refused to go away Saturday, and there were times during both halves when it seemed like Maryland was going to falter one time too many, allowing the Colonels to take control. But whenever the Terrapins desperately needed one, it seemed like Hayes was there to provide a three-point basket. In fact, having thought about it briefly, I'd say Hayes has served in that role often this season. He always appears to make a three-pointer when the team needs one. Against Eastern Kentucky, Hayes shot 4 of 8 from beyond the arc and finished with 16 points. He also tallied five assists.
1) Perimeter defense. Eastern Kentucky's offense is unique in that it's two tallest players hang out around the perimeter and jack up three-pointers at will. That made guys like Jordan Williams get out on the perimeter as well, which is not exactly the ideal place for him to be defending. Regardless, the Colonels shot well from beyond the arc, hitting 11 of 23 attempts (47.8 percent) on the night. Josh Taylor and Justin Stommes -- Eastern Kentucky's two biggest players -- shot a combined 8 for 14 from three-point range. With those two hitting shots from the perimeter, Eastern Kentucky's smaller players at times were able to make backdoor cuts with little attention shown their way.
2) Handling alternating defensive schemes. Maryland guards Eric Hayes and Sean Mosley said the Terrapins expected Eastern Kentucky to switch defensive alignments frequently. That means the problem was in execution, not in preparation. You can decide whether that's better or worse. The Colonels alternated between a 1-3-1 look, a 3-2 look and a man-to-man look, and the switches occured seemingly on every other possession. Maryland struggled to operate efficiently on offense for a large chunk of the first half, and parts of the second half as well. That said, the Terrapins eventually recovered and ended up shooting 46.8 percent from the field on the night.
3) Focus. After the game, Gary Williams said in a radio interview that after his team had built an early 16-point lead, "we thought the game was over." It was not, as Maryland discovered over the final 30 minutes of play. Said Eric Hayes: "We got out to an early lead and then kind of slowed it down and eased up a little bit, which hurt us." Indeed it did. Eastern Kentucky cut the lead to one in the first half and tied the game with just more than eight minutes to go.
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