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The pros and cons of (mostly) constraining Trevor Booker

With just more than three minutes remaining Sunday, Maryland -- which at one point in the second half trailed by as many as 11 points before fighting back to briefly take the lead -- trailed by one. Eric Hayes had just nailed a three-pointer to draw the Terrapins as close, and it seemed as though Maryland might be the team gathering momentum.

Then Clemson forward Trevor Booker -- who entered the game having made 5 of 18 three-pointers all season and not having made a single three-pointer during conference play -- squared up beyond the arc and hit the shot. The three-pointer put Clemson up by four, and the Tigers held on from there.

"Booker’s three really hurt," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "I don’t know how you handle that, you know, other than what we did. You know, it’s kind of a shot you want him to take since he hadn’t made a three in conference play, and he made it ... So, what do you do? But it was a big shot, no doubt about it."

Aside from that shot, the Terrapins did a pretty good job of defending Booker, Clemson's top offensive threat. Booker entered the game averaging 16.0 points per game and shooting 55.6 percent from the field. Against Maryland, Booker shot 2 for 16 from the field and finished with 10 points.

Freshman forward Jordan Williams primarily was responsible for guarding Booker, though Gary Williams said the Terrapins alternated between double-teaming Booker and providing Jordan Williams with help defense.

Gary Williams was asked afterward whether the game plan was to try to render Booker ineffective and force Clemson's other players to beat Maryland.

"They didn’t beat us; they shot 31 percent," Gary Williams said. "I’ll take 31 percent against anybody we play. We doubled for a while and then we gave help. We tried it both ways, and it worked. He shot 2 for 16, and the other guys didn’t make up for it. I mean, they didn’t shoot the ball either. But we turned it over 26 times, and that’s what gave them the opportunities. You’re eventually going to score, and then the offensive rebounds, you know, you get two and three shots, you’re only shooting one for three, but you score. And that’s what happened a few times there."

Indeed, rebounding did hurt the Terrapins on Sunday night. Clemson won the battle of the boards, 46-41, but the most striking difference was in how convincingly the Tigers dominated on the offensive glass. Clemson tallied 20 offensive rebounds; Maryland managed just eight.

As for Williams's contention that none of Clemson's other players made up for the fact that Maryland was able to limit Booker, that's not necessarily accurate. Clemson forward Jerai Grant shot 7 for 11 from the field and finished with a game-high 18 points.

Clemson Coach Oliver Purnell said it wasn't a surprise that the Terrapins tried to shut down Booker and that it shouldn't have been such a surprise that Grant was the main beneficiary of Maryland's defensive strategy.

"Really, it was the same thing people do to us all year long, but they were even more of a conscious decision, and when that happens, if your playing opposite him (Booker), then, you know, you’ve got to make sure you get yourself in position to score," Purnell said. "We throw the ball to Book, our five man dives to the basket, so Book throws it out and if you don’t have a shot, we’re going to reverse it, and if you seal and get an angle, we’ll throw the ball right to you for a scoring opportunity. Because the guy who’s guarding you is way over on Book and he’s got to recover on a quick reversal to cover Jerai. If he seals and gets an angle, we’ll throw it in there and we score, but you’ve got to do it every time. Because you don’t get the ball every time."

By Steve Yanda  |  February 1, 2010; 10:11 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Clemson's physical approach flusters Vasquez

Comments

Steve, anyone who watched the game knows what is reported above.

Kudos to Jordan Williams on a very fine game.

But when are you going to give us your thoughts or GW's thoughts about the stinker that Vasquez had? His inability to protect the ball and run the offense led to most of the problems, in my view even Milbourne's.

Posted by: petecard | February 1, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure why Gary didn't want to give Grant credit---maybe he's still bitter he didn't recruit him harder. Grant far exceeded what anyone would expect from him in this game, and while the Terps basically shut down one of the most prominent big men in the ACC, the strategy did present some consequences.

However, Gary is right in saying that if the Terps take better care of the ball, particularly in the half-court, they walk out of Littlejohn alone atop the ACC standings.

Posted by: Russtinator | February 1, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

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