Saved by the zone
At one point during the middle of the first half of Maryland's 80-68 win Tuesday night, Indiana made five straight shots while going on a 14-3 run that turned a four-point Maryland lead into a seven-point Maryland deficit. And while there were many reasons for the tide shift, one that stood out was the ease with which the Hoosiers were breaking Maryland's vaunted press defense.
"Our press didn’t exist," Coach Gary Williams said.
So with roughly six minutes remaining in the first half, Williams made two alterations to Maryland's defensive approach that played a significant role in enabling the Terrapins to climb back into the lead before halftime. One was to ease off the press, and the other was to switch from a man-to-man to a zone defense.
"Nothing was working," Williams said. "They were scoring on us. They were hurting us in transition. The same time we went zone we also got out of our pressure, and I think that helped as much as going zone because we were giving them open looks in transition, which is their game."
In the final six minutes of the first half, Indiana shot 2 of 13 (15.4 percent) from the field. The Hoosiers shot 32.4 percent the entire second half, most of which Maryland spent in their zone defense.
Senior forward Landon Milbourne pointed out three key things the Terrapins were able to do because of the zone defense: 1) slow down Indiana's offensive pace, 2) help keep Maryland from getting into further foul trouble and 3) allow the Terrapins to grab some uncontested rebounds.
While the kinks in Maryland's pressure defense might raise some concern, the fact that the Terrapins could switch gears and go into an effective zone look is equally encouraging.
"It’s always nice to have if you’re struggling covering guys man-to-man," senior guard Eric Hayes said. "We can go zone like we did today and slow them down. It was just one of those things that was great for us last year and we’re trying to get it better this year because it hadn’t really worked that great at the beginning of this year. But today it worked great for us."
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