Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Blood on the court: GW out-toughs Terps

This was a rugged mosh pit of a game. And I'm not just making that analogy because I'm stuck in 1994. That is really what it looked like - and perhaps that's why the Terps came up short. For the second consecutive year (the first time since 1955 that this has happened) the Maryland Terrapins men's basketball team lost to local rival George Washington, 78-70.

To me, the Terps lost because of one thing - the Colonials came out hard, and Maryland came out limp. I didn't even mean that to sound so sexually suggestive when I wrote it. That's just how it felt. Maybe I need to move on.

Case in point: during the first half, Colonials point guard Carl Elliott took an elbow during a scrum for a loose ball and lost what looked to be about a pint of blood on the floor. It was a lot of blood. It just proves that time-honored adage:
facial cuts bleed a lot.

But he got stitches, put a band-aid on it, came back into the game, and finished with 11 points in 29 minutes. And that pretty much sums up the game. GW came out aggressively, with a tough man-to-man defense, and an even tougher full-court press. And Maryland wilted. At one point, GW star
Pops Mensah-Bonsu (the last name means "whale killer" in Ghana) was running back up the court and barked something in the ear of Maryland oaf Will Bowers (the last name means "Mike Mardesich" in Terpese). In response, Bowers just hung his head and tried to pretend like Pops wasn't talking to him.

Like Elliott's resilience sums up GW, Bowers' wilting encapsulates Maryland. But give credit to GW - the best college team bar none in the DC area right now. They played hard the whole time and were able to grind it out despite poor shooting. And they got great performance, toughness and leadership from their seniors, Pops and Mike Hall. Gee, I wish this Maryland team knew what that felt like.

But I don't want to rip too much. It's still early, and Maryland has plenty of time to turn it around. But as of right now, they look
soft. Certain players do, anyway. And that's no way to be. If I were a coach, the book on Maryland for my team would be to hit them in the mouth early, and watch them cringe. They've got to fix this, or it could be a long season. But they've got plenty of talent - and it's not like they've ever been known as a hard-nosed group. That's just not Maryland basketball. But just because they're generally a finesse team doesn't mean a soft performance is insignificant - on the contrary. A finesse team can afford to be soft even less than a "regular" team, because there's so little margin for error. If a finesse team makes a habit of playing soft, they simply become a soft team. And that's not good.

In the end, GW was the team that literally left the blood on the court last night, but when it was all said and done, Maryland was the team that looked wounded.

(Photo credit: Greg Fiume/www.umterps.com)

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