Terps looking for Milbourne to bounce back
It's been a rough past few weeks for senior forward Landon Milbourne, who has tallied more than eight points in a game once since Maryland defeated North Carolina on Feb. 7. Milbourne (6-foot-7, 205 lbs.) has spent all season playing out of position -- just as he did last year -- and the physical strain of matching up against opposing players bigger and taller than he is finally seems to have taken its tole.
The key -- for both him and the team -- will be whether he can bounce back to the stellar form he displayed during the season's first few months as the Terrapins wrap up the regular season and prepare to enter postseason play.
Milbourne has developed into a deft face-up shooter who can be quite a threat with his mid-range game. But the shots he knocked down with regularity earlier in the season have not been falling of late. Part of that may have to do with the effort Milbourne is having to expend on the defensive end. He is averaging 7.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting 36.4 percent from the field in Maryland's last five contests.
On Friday, Coach Gary Williams was asked whether he thought Milbourne was showing signs of fatigue.
"He looks okay to me," Williams said. "He looks healthy. You know, I see guys on other teams playing 38 minutes a game, 37 minutes a game, so why wouldn't Landon hold up if these guys can hold up?"
While giving his response, Williams picked up a packet of notes he had carried with him into the Comast Center media room. On the top sheet read the season stats for the Virginia Tech men's basketball team, which the Terrapins will play later today. Hokies guards Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson are averaging 37.8 and 36.4 minutes per game, respectively, in ACC play. In recent weeks, Williams also has made mention of the large amounts of minutes per game the Duke trio of Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith play.
The difference with all those players, of course, is that they match up against people much closer to their size and build than does Milbourne on most nights.
"If I'm a little guard, there's bigger guards I bang against, so I think Landon's fine," Williams said. "And we can give him rest when he needs it. The other night I think he played 20 minutes, and he was fine. You know, Dino came in and played great. James Padgett played very well in the first half. This time of year, see, it's whatever it takes. It doesn't matter. You know, if you have to play guys 40 minutes, you play guys 40 minutes if that's what it takes to win a game. This isn't about making sure no egos get bruised. This is about playing and winning. And our guys are good. They want to win. So, they get it. They understand it."
The game Williams was referring to was Wednesday's nine-point win over Clemson, during which Milbourne tallied eight points on 2 for 5 shooting and one rebound in 20 minutes.
Milbourne is too important an asset for the Terrapins for him to be logging only 20 minutes per game, but if he continues to be mired in his current slump, Williams may have no choice other than to sit Milbourne for long stretches in favor of Dino Gregory or James Padgett. It's highly unlikely that Milbourne's spot in the starting lineup is in any danger, but he needs to start playing with the vigor that at one point earlier this season made him one of the team's most effective pieces.
"Right now for Landon, he's been off a couple games, but it's going to come back," Gregory said. "I don't see a shooting slump for him, you know, staying too much longer. Maybe one game, or he might bounce back on Saturday. We don't know yet. But until then guys like myself, Cliff (Tucker) and Adrian (Bowie) need to step up and score for him, that type of thing, until he gets it back in order."
February 27, 2010; 9:06 AM ET
Categories: Men's basketball
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