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Slow start hampers Terps against Duke

A particular theme became evident while talking with Coach Gary Williams and players on Saturday following Maryland's 21-point loss at Duke ...

"I think we started off real slow," junior guard Cliff Tucker said. "I think it’s real important that we come out real good. We started out real slow today."

"The crowd was pretty good," senior guard Greivis Vasquez said. "And their defense got us out of it. And we weren’t ready to play, so that was a big thing."

"At the start of the game, we didn’t come out tough enough to run our offense and took some bad shots, a combination of Duke plays good defense plus our not being able to run our offense, not really in sync," Williams said. "And you cannot do that here. I found that out. You have to be really ready to play and everything has to go your way, things like that. We didn’t play well enough, and, you know, basically that was the game."

Indeed, among the many things the Terrapins did yesterday against the Blue Devils that seemed out of character for them given their solid and consistent start to conference play was they came out of the gate with an apparent lack of focus.

Well, "focus" may or may not be the correct word to describe Maryland's start, depending on who you ask ("I would think so," Williams said when asked whether he thought his players were adequately focussed for Saturday's game. "I don’t know what else they were thinking about. We didn’t have much going on, you know, at home, so it was time to play a game. I felt we were ready to play."), but it sure seemed like a focus issue from the vantage point of more than a few observers along press row.

Regardless, whatever it was that contributed to Maryland's slow start, the fact is the Terrapins' dug themselves a considerable hole early on for the second straight year at Cameron Indoor, and said hole proved too deep to dig out of. Maryland was down 10 with more than 13 minutes remaining in the first half. The Terrapins were down 14 with more than 11 minutes to play before the intermission. And they would have entered halftime down 18 were it not for a fast break lay-up from Tucker with five seconds remaining.

Again, this was an unusual showing for a Maryland squad that this season had displayed a sustained mental focus for nearly all of conference play. It wasn't so much that the Terrapins shot 38.7 percent from the field in the first half or that they allowed Duke to shoot 46.7 percent. It wasn't that they turned the ball over nine times or that they didn't make it to the foul line once before the intermission.

It was that they did all of those things, that they could not cancel out one faltering part of their attack by falling back on one of the other components of the game in which they previously had performed well. Maryland is one of -- if not the -- top three-point shooting teams in the ACC. On Saturday, Maryland missed all seven of its three-point attempts before halftime.

Granted, part of Maryland's slow start certainly should be attributed to Duke's defense, which performed well. The Blue Devils switched frequently in terms of who guarded who, and they created ample ball pressure to fluster the Terrapins into rushing shots and passes.

But the responsibility should at least be shared. Williams pointed to Maryland's struggles in creating offensive spacing on the floor and in working around Duke's screens on defense. And he said the Terrapins were not aggressive enough in the first half to get to the free throw line.

Maryland addressed its problems at halftime and fixed some of them in the second half. The Terrapins, for instance, were more aggressive in taking the ball to the hole after halftime, and consequently, they ended up attempting 11 free throws.

"I don’t know what it was," Tucker said when asked for the cause of Maryland's slow start. "I don’t know what is was. Just didn’t come out ready to play. Hopefully we can change that. We got a big one on Monday."

By Steve Yanda  |  February 14, 2010; 9:01 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Maryland runs undone by Duke's second chances


I don't know what "not being ready to play" means. It just seems like a cop-out explanation for e very bad day.

This game was a lot like Clemson. Duke's pressure perimeter defense was the key. It caused rushed shots and turnovers and seemed to break the Terps' confidence. As was the case in the Clemson game, we shot very, very poorly. Once they got a comfortable lead the game was over. We didn't give up but we really didn't have a chance.

As was the case at Clemson, Vasquez was at the center of the problem. We win and lose with him and it didn't take the eye of John Wooden to see early on that this was going to be one of those bad days for him. He wasn't alone, but he does always seem to set the tone. Everyone shot badly, committed turnovers and got beat on the boards. Jordan Williams had the predictable "learning experience."

So now we need to move on. With the right attitude and a little help from our crowd on Monday night we can get our act together and not give up on a season that can still go our way.

Posted by: petecard | February 14, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

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