Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another close loss may signal youth movement for Terps

Watching the Terps this season has been difficult. They always play hard and rarely get blown out, but it's obvious that they're missing something -- maybe a scorer or a glue guy, but probably a dead-eye shooter or two.

After their most recent game, a 91-83 loss to Virginia Tech, the Terps dropped to 16-10 and 5-6 in the ACC. Tech's Erick Green hit a couple of key threes down the stretch to pull away, and Maryland struggled to answer back. Overall, the Terps shot over 49 percent from the field and made 21 of 24 free throws (a significant achievement for this group), but Virginia Tech hit more timely threes, grabbed 11 offensive rebounds (including several down the stretch), and forced 15 Maryland turnovers. Their zone also made Jordan Williams have to work extra hard to get the ball, and only a few of his points came easily. He didn't have one of his more efficient games, but he did still have 16 points and nine rebounds.

One odd thing about yesterday's game was how much Virginia Tech's starters played. Each was on the floor for more than 31 minutes, and their starters scored 88 of their 91 total points. Only three bench guys got on the floor, and none of them had a field goal.

Most of Maryland's losses this season mirror this one -- enough skills and heart to hang with a talented team, but just not enough to finish the job. Remember these?

L vs. Pittsburgh, 79-70
L vs. Illinois, 80-76
L vs. Temple, 64-61
L vs. Boston College, 79-75
L vs. Duke, 71-64
L vs. Villanova, 74-66
L vs. Virginia Tech, 74-57
L vs. Duke, 80-62
L vs. Boston College, 76-72

Only the two games in bold could be described as blowouts, and Maryland still had a chance at some point (small or not) in each of those games.

With Maryland's NCAA Tournament hopes fading with each loss, it's time to start Pe'Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin. The most disappointing Terps this season have probably been Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker, so it's time for the freshmen to show what they can do in the last few games of the season (though they still play a lot of minutes regardless). Bowie and Tucker have been too inconsistent; maybe they're just not that good and never really should have been expected to provide much. Stoglin just had his best game of the season, scoring 25 points and dishing out six assists. He plays a little quicker -- and more out of control -- than Howard, but as he showed yesterday, when he pushes the ball he can make some things happen (both good and bad). Howard has also had a few solid games in a row and even hit four threes against Boston College.

More minutes for Howard and Stoglin (and probably Haukur Palsson and James Padgett) seems like a good idea to start laying the groundwork for next season's team. Not only that, though, but they (particularly Stoglin and Howard) may present the best chance for Maryland to win regardless. Gary Williams has likely recognized that already, though, and that's why the two have been getting more crunch-time minutes. Too bad neither guy is a sharpshooter -- at least not at the moment.

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