Well, we got our butts kicked last night. Final score, 76-52, at Cameron. No two ways about it. Nevertheless, everything I said below still stands. I look forward to the rematch.
I think this game was a blowout not because Duke played particularly well, but because Maryland played badly. So let us break down the Maryland Terrapins' performance, shall we?
Their defense was good (at times) but their offense was so shaky it was painful to watch. Check out this stat - in the first half, Maryland made eight shots and committed eightTEEN turnovers. Again. They made EIGHT shots, and EIGHTEEN turnovers. That is beyond shaky. The initial reaction is to blame the lack of offensive cohesion on the point guard position, and of course, that certainly plays a role (Strawberry, who is still learning and definitely improving, had a 1:5 assist-to-turnover ratio, errrrr).
But to blame everything on that oversimplifies things a little bit, I think. These kinds of big, rivalry games hinge on the team leaders, ie, the seniors. And in this game, the three big seniors, Nik Caner-Medley, Travis Garrison, and Chris McCray, according to the the box score averaged seven points, seven rebounds (not too shabby), and 0.6 assists in 26 minutes! You need more than that from your seniors. You just do. Garrison, in particular. And this is the last time I'm gonna pick on him (heheh, I say that now) or the rest of the Terps until March Madness. But when you're the starting center against your archrival on the road for the last time, and you come up with 0 points on 0-8 shooting (and there were some BAD misses in there), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 turnovers in 20 minutes, while the guy you're guarding goes nuts with a triple-double, THAT, my friends, is what is known as a black hole.
I don't want to heap this all on them, because no Terrapin played particularly well on any kind of consistent basis. But the seniors set the tone and, unfortunately, these seniors just don't seem to have the intestinal fortitude to go to work and get the job done. (I'm going to resist the urge to say we miss the big-game presence of a certain point guard from last year, as the team is by and large much better off without him. In unrelated news, how's Maccabi Rishon LeZion doing?)
Here's a perfect example of what I'm talking about: During the first half, Caner-Medley grabbed a nice rebound and started dribbling unguarded up the court. He had numbers. But I knew, I KNEW, that he was going to lose the ball. And he did. He coughed it up the instant he hit traffic. No real pressure - he just lost the handle. Because he was too busy looking over his shoulder and overthinking and playing tight and so forth. What if that had been Steve Blake in his last game at Cameron? Would Blake have lost the handle? But wait, that's not even a fair comparison. What if it had been Byron Mouton, or Keith Booth, or Rodney Elliott? What would those guys have done? They might have had less talent, but they undoubtedly had more heart. And they would have NEVER missed the tournament. And there, in a nutshell, is your difference.
The team definitely looks more at ease (and more competitive) when Ebekwe, Jones, and Gist are leading the charge, and the seniors take more of a complementary role. But playing them more would conflict with Gary Williams' long-standing policy of starting and heavily playing his seniors.
So it looks like we've got a logjam here. And hey, this ain't the pros, where we can go pick up a free agent. This is the hand we've been dealt, and for better or for worse, we've got to find a way to coach up our players, get the chemistry right, and play the combinations that give us the best chance to win ballgames. This is the time when the coaches earn the big paychecks. The ball is in the coaches' court, so to speak. And that's all I'm saying. I'm not saying anything. I'm just saying. Goterps.