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Rewarding the big men

If there was one Maryland weakness that stood out following last week's six-point loss to William & Mary, Coach Gary Williams said, it was that the Terrapins did not feed the ball into the post often enough. Williams made that a point of emphasis in the days leading up to Sunday's 34-point win at UNC-Greensboro, and the team responded by tallying 58 points in the paint.

"It’s good because it gives us better looks on the perimeter with shots, and our big men get rewarded when they work on the inside and get rebounds and run the floor," senior forward Landon Milbourne said of the benefits of executing a more inside-out oriented offense. "We’re a good passing team as well, so usually when we get the ball in the post we can find our guys, so that if they leave their man we find the open guys, and we moved the ball pretty well. That’s basically what we was trying to do when we said we were going to try to get the ball inside, and we did a lot of that tonight."

It wasn't necessarily that Maryland's renewed offensive focus on getting the ball into the post translated into a higher number of shot attempts* for Milbourne. In fact, Milbourne took the same number of shots Sunday (14) as he did last week against William & Mary.

*It did lead to more shots for the other forwards in Maryland's eight-man rotation. Jordan Williams took nine shots Sunday after making five attempts against William & Mary. Dino Gregory took just two attempts against the Tribe before getting off five against UNC-Greensboro. Gregory also took seven shots from the free throw line Sunday after not making a single trip to the charity stripe against William & Mary.

Rather, the approach set off a chain of events that frequently opened up a look for someone on the court wearing a Maryland uniform. The Spartans typically would sag inward to provide help defense on whichever Maryland post player received the entry pass, which freed up one of the Terrapins guards to either make a cut to the basket or drift to an open area of the floor. UNC-Greensboro's defensive rotations simply were not made swiftly enough to keep up with Maryland's passes in and out of the post.

Maryland's guards also showed a penchant Sunday for driving to the basket, instead of settling for mid- to long-range jump shots. And so you saw jump shooters Eric Hayes and Sean Mosley combine to attempt four shots, while a guy like Adrian Bowie returned to his old slashing ways and tallied nine shot attempts. Maryland attempted 10 three-pointers Sunday after making 25 attempts from beyond the arc against William & Mary.

"I don’t mind three-point shots at all, but we have to go inside first," Gary Williams said. "Greivis hit a couple today just because they were worried about us in transition, so they had to get back to the paint and all of the sudden you’re open on the perimeter. That’s the way that works. We found people inside. We really emphasized the last couple of days in practice to pass the ball to the guys who are open inside, and, you know, it worked today. Now, this is one game and that has to continue if we want to be successful."

Is it likely that Maryland will tally anywhere near 58 points in the paint on most nights during ACC play? No. Is it likely that the Terrapins frequently will attempt as few as 10 three-pointers against conference opponents? No again.

While Maryland eventually will find some happy medium for which to aim, it is clear the team's offense operates more efficiently -- and more beneficially to a larger number of players -- when the Terrapins remain true to Gary Williams's philosophy of looking first to pass the ball inside.

By Steve Yanda  |  January 4, 2010; 8:14 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: (Re-)introducing Dino Gregory

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