For a few moments last night it looked like Maryland would be facing UNC in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Instead, Georgia Tech fought back after trailing by 10 at halftime and outscored UNC 38-24 in the second half to earn a 62-58 win and advance to face Maryland for the second time this season.
There's no denying that the UNC-GT game was ugly. UNC shot just 33.3 percent from the field, while Georgia Tech shot just under 43 percent. Neither team shot three-pointers well at all: UNC was 2-16 and Georgia Tech was 5-19. UNC had 16 assists and 10 turnovers, which isn't too bad, I guess, but Georgia Tech had only 11 assists to go with 14 turnovers. Again, neither team played that well, and if it wasn't for ACC Freshman of the Year Derrick Favors -- 18 points (7-8 from the field, nine rebounds, five blocks -- Georgia Tech probably would have lost.
But that game doesn't matter now, as Maryland will face Georgia Tech tonight at 7. In the two teams' first meeting, a 76-74 Maryland win on that Cliff Tucker buzzer-beater, the game was, believe it or not, pretty even. Maryland shot slightly better from the field -- 43.1 percent to 41.2 percent -- but Georgia Tech shot better from three-point range -- 7-15 to Maryland's 8-22 mark. Georgia Tech also outrebounded the Terps by nine -- 44-35 -- which probably can't happen today if the Terps are going to advance to play the winner of Florida State and N.C. State.
Georgia Tech is another team that presents a difficult matchup for forward Landon Milbourne (6'7): Favors is 6'10 and Gani Lawal is 6'9. Milbourne usually struggles against taller and longer defenders because they make it more difficult for him to simply shoot his mid-range jumper over them, which he'd prefer to do. In the first meeting, Milbourne scored just five points on 2-11 shooting. Still, he kept his head in the game, and in 34 minutes he grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots -- and didn't turn the ball over. Those certainly aren't great numbers, but it could have been much worse. But I doubt that Milbourne can have that kind of shooting game again if Maryland is to win.
A key factor may be the play of the backcourt tandem of Adrian Bowie and Tucker off the bench. Tucker gives the Terps a spark when he scores a few buckets, and Bowie has played well lately, scoring nine points against Duke (on 4-4 shooting) and eight points against Virginia (on 3-3 shooting). If the Terps starting five isn't as efficient as usual, Maryland's going to need that scoring punch off the bench.
Or Tucker could just hit another game-winner if he has to.