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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."

By Steve Yanda  |  December 2, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Choi provides helping hand


Jordan Williams needs to work on his FTs. Big time. That is going to cost us.

We went 8 deep yesterday with Tucker and DG not playing. I assume Goins still has foot issues. With or without Goins we have a 10-deep rotation of players. Gary seems to stick with 8-9 players in his rotation. Assuming Goins ends up marginal this year, does that mean that Choi's minutes reduce when DG comes back? When DG comes back, does LM play 3 again? Why isn't Choi played at 3 when LM is on the floor at 4? Would like to see how the teams current deployment relates to some of the preseason line-up you guys had put out there.

btw - Hayes is probably the most consistent player we have right now. He seems to hit shots when everyone else is missing them and stme the tide on the opponent's rallies. For all of the press GV has received, he and GV were rated equally coming in. I see a future coach in EH...after his career in Europe ends.

Regards -


Posted by: HughGRection | December 2, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Props to Gary and crew for making the right adjustments and executing. Jordan Williams has to finish better though, but he and Padgett look real solid. That being said I wish we had Dino back for the Nova game. We can't compete right now with big athletic front courts like Cincinnati, etc.

Posted by: lavar609 | December 2, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

No disrespect to Hayes, but I think Mosley had been WAY more consistent that anyone on the squad so far this year.

Posted by: GaryWilliamsJr | December 2, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone else feel the press (and Terps play in general) seems quicker and more efficient without Vasquez on the floor. By no means and I calling for Dirty Vasquez to be benched, just saying it's something to keep an eye on. With Jordan Williams and Vasquez out there, you have two slow pressing defenders. No surprise then that our press has been ineffective so far this season. Maybe only press when you bring in Bowie for Vasquez and Padgett for Williams? The rest of the time, fall back and play zone or man2man.

Posted by: fushezzi | December 2, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

This game should not have been as close as it was. The Terps need to end this streak of slow starts that stretches back from last season. If the Terps put together a first half like they did the middle 10 minutes of the second half, this game would have been over at halftime. Indiana is not a very good team, and the Terps let the Hoosiers stay in the game way too long.

I'm also concerned with the number of short shots (inside 5 feet) that the Terps are missing. It's not a single person or a single situation. Everyone is having trouble missing the easy ones. They missed at least three easy buckets on fast breaks, and even more layups and really short shots that were missed in the half court. Jordan Williams needs to lay the hammer down and stop trying to flip the ball of the window and just slam it down. Mosely has clearly learned that lesson, and it needs to spread to the rest of the team.

I was impressed with Williams' defense, but both he and Padgett need to be more of a factor on the offensive end, and not just off screens and drives. The bigs (Greggory included) need to try some moves during the first part of the game to legitimize themselves as score threats in the post so the guards can get a little more rrom to operate. If the Terps don't have a post presence, quality teams will lock down on the perimeter and the team will have a hard time scoring. Last season this team worked outside in out of necessity, but now have the ability to work inside out, but that philosophy will only work if the guys in the post pose a threat.

I really liked Mosely on the top of the 3-2 zone, and really really liked Choi on the baseline (he's an exceptional zone defender with his length), but that zone could be a big bust if it sags that much (Mosely spent a more time at the free throw line than he did at the top of the acr) as quality competition will swing the zone to the wing and get a sharpshooter wide open at the top of the arc.

Someone really needs to find out why Tucker didn't see a minute of action in this game.

Posted by: Russtinator | December 2, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if Hayes is verbal enough to coach, but maybe.

I still have yet to see Choi make a positive play on the court. I never thought Dave Neal could become a real contributor though, but after 4 years look at what Gary turned him into. Lesson learned: never question Gary's ability to turn a dud into a stud.

I still don't think Choi should be out there at crucial parts of games tho. I'd rather he get better during garbage minutes.

Tucker needs more PT for sure.

Trivia question of the day: What do Kansas, Stanford, Connecticut, California, DePaul, Michigan, Illinois, and soon to be Villanova all have in common?

Posted by: Barno1 | December 2, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Barno, I'll agree that offensively Choi doesn't contribute much. He seems too jittery most of the time. But as Russtinator said, he is a very tough zone defender with his length and quickness. And his positioning for rebounds has improved the last 2 games. Anyway, I tend to think that he won't see the floor much after Gregory returns.

Posted by: Jeremy76 | December 2, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Hayes needs to hit his open shots on the wing. Mosely has been good, but I'd say that Milbourne has been our most consistent player so far. GV has been consistent also, consistently bad. I'm very disappointed in his play this year. I'm starting to think GV might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, which is why he makes such terrible plays on a regular basis. He has the physical tools but makes terrible decisions. I really thought that he would eliminate a lot of that this year, but so far he's looked worse than least year IMO. And I'm still not sure why Hayes isn't bringing the ball up, especially with how often GV is turning it over. However, if the boys can get things together and the bigs can grow up quickly and DG can step in and play well and EH and Mosely can hit shots consistently, we'll be a top 10 team at year's end. But, that's a lot of ifs. Nonetheless, as a proud Terp grad, I will keep the faith because Gary is one of the best coaches in the country, and he generally gets the most out of his players.

Posted by: CYork1 | December 2, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Trivia question of the day:

What do Kansas, Stanford, Connecticut, California, DePaul, Michigan, Illinois, and soon to be Villanova all have in common?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Posted by: Barno1 | December 2, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

What do Kansas, Stanford, Connecticut, California, DePaul, Michigan, Illinois, and soon to be Villanova all have in common?

They're all major conference teams that lost to Maryland in the BB&T.

Posted by: Russtinator | December 2, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Good call Russtinator.

There is this myth that Maryland hasn't done well in the BB&T over the years. But the truth is MD just hasn't done well against GW. But against foreign invaders from out of the area, MD has dominated the BB&T. Notre Dame is the only team I can recall from out of this area that beat MD there, and they were aided by former Terp Danny Miller.

Kansas and Standford were both top 3 nationally when MD took them down. Villanova is the current number 3. Illinois was top 25. Connecticut ended up in the Elite 8 the year they lost to MD at the BB&T.

So don't be surprised if the Terps again own the out of area team this Sunday.

Posted by: Barno1 | December 2, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"So don't be surprised if the Terps again own the out of area team this Sunday."

I don't know. 'Nova doesn't have to travel nearly as far as those other teams did, and will probably have a pretty strong contingent of fans at Verizon along with all of the GW fans rooting against the Terps. I do think the Terps match up better against the Wildcats than they have against any of the upper echelon teams they have played thus far. The Vasquez/Reynolds matchup will be interesting to watch, and it will be fun to see if these two teams run more than a dozen 2-play half-court sets.

Posted by: Russtinator | December 2, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Why would the GW fans root against MD? Yeah technically we compete in the same recruiting area, but c'mon. If the roles were reversed I'd want the local team to win in a local arena against a national power.

Posted by: Barno1 | December 2, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

GW fans will root against UMD, bc they kind of hate MD. Won't mater though, a solid 80% of that stadium will be wearing red and cheering for the terps. GW is a nice play-date, but Maryland is the prom queen of the BB&T, as ticket sales are concerned anyway.

Posted by: jpfterps | December 3, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

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