Thursday, January 13, 2011

Terps beat Wake, get first ACC win

On the same night that Florida State took down No. 1 Duke, a feat that Maryland came close to pulling off Sunday night, the Terps earned their first ACC win in three tries, beating Wake Forest 74-55.

In what was an ugly win over an awful team (at least it was on the road!), the Terps took a 14-point lead at halftime but had to weather a bit of a Wake Forest comeback in the second half. Wake pulled to within six points with about 11 minutes to go before Maryland went on an impressive run to push the lead to 21 just a few minutes later. Wake never recovered, and all that was left was about four to five minutes of sloppy basketball.

There's not a whole lot that can be taken away from this game other than the Terps' offense needs a lot of work, but here are a few notes/observations:

- Jordan Williams had his worst shooting night of the season -- 2-13 from the field -- and yet he still put up 13 points and 15 rebounds. Most of his points came from the free throw line, where he made 9-14 shots -- not bad for a guy shooting about 50 percent from the line on the season.

- Wake Forest's zone defense made things difficult for Maryland. Because the Terps don't have any great three-point shooters, other than the hot-and-cold Cliff Tucker, Wake was content to clog the paint and force Maryland to hit some outside shots. The Terps made just five of 18 threes and Williams didn't have much room to operate inside, so in a sense that strategy worked. Maryland seemed to make the adjustment to push the ball up the court more in the second half so that Wake couldn't get their defense set. Because the Terps missed plenty of open perimeter shots in this game, I wouldn't be surprised to see other better, more athletic teams play a zone defense against Maryland to try to take Williams out of the game.

- Similar to the above note, the Terps simply have to make more perimeter shots. They didn't seem all that comfortable operating against a zone defense, but they still got plenty of open looks that they just didn't knock down. Their flex offense is particularly effective against man-to-man defense, but they still ran it several times against Wake's zone -- and still got open shots. Gary Williams will always get his team open looks -- but he can't make shots for them.

- In games when the Terps shoot 38 percent from the field and under 28 percent from three-point range, they're likely going to need to make free throws. Luckily they were playing Wake Forest, so they got away with making just 17 of 33 free throws (51.5 percent). As noted, Williams shot much better from the line, meaning that the worst free throw shooter on the team has to be James Padgett, right? Williams and Padgett are both shooting about 50 percent on the season, but Padgett missed all four of his free throws last night. He also aired one of them so bad that it couldn't have been within two or three feet of the basket.

- It's pretty clear now that the Terps are going to need more scoring efforts like last night's from Tucker (21 points, 6-13 shooting). Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard have some talent, no question, but they have struggled a bit lately to put up points -- particularly Stoglin. Stoglin made just one of nine shots yesterday and had only two points. In ACC games so far, Stoglin is shooting a combined 8-36 from the field. That's not going to get it done.

- Haukur Palsson had a nice game (four points, five rebounds, two assists) in 20 minutes. He's seen his minutes increase in the last few games.

I guess that's about it -- still a nice win, no matter what. Next on the Terps' schedule is No. 7 Villanova -- on the road. Winning that game, or beating Duke at home on February 2, would go a long way to getting the Terps back on the NCAA Tournament path. It's still early, but beating a top team like that would do wonders for these young Terps.

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