Jordan Williams started a new double-double streak, racking up 21 points and 15 rebounds, and Sean Mosley scored an ACC season-high 16 points as Maryland defeated Georgia Tech, 74-63. The Terrapins have won their third straight game, raising their record to 14-7 overall and 4-3 in the ACC heading into a crucial matchup with Duke on Wednesday that very well may decide their NCAA Tournament fate. If tonight's game was an indicator of what's to come, it was a pretty encouraging one.
Maryland appeared to be the better team for much of the first half and led in almost every statistical category, but were only up by a point at halftime.They had a stronger second half, stretching the lead to as wide as 13 before Georgia Tech had a short, late comeback to bring the margin to withing single digits. Maryland withstood the late charge and came away with a close, much-needed, and well-earned (if slightly ugly) victory.
Really, the Terrapins were superior at nearly every aspect of the game tonight: they shot better than GT from the field by 10%; they forced more turnovers; they had more rebounds; they even shot better from the free throw line than the Jackets. The game's not without it's disclaimers. For one, GT was missing Brian Oliver, one of their better scorers. They're also a small team, meaning that when their big men got in trouble, they had to go small right away. Jordan Williams reaped the benefits of that, dominating for stretches.
Still, the team that Maryland beat wasn't very different than the team that beat up on Georgia Tech and UNC earlier in the year. Oliver's absence was key, but it was hardly a game-changing one. And before you discount GT entirely, they're great at home, with a record of 8-2 in the Thrillerdome. The only two losses came by a combined 4 points, and the wins included double-digit victories over Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Maryland's strong performance and relatively wide margin here was impressive, slightly undermanned opponent or not.
A few impressions and thoughts post-Jump:
The most reassuring news is probably Jordan Williams' performance, which was fantastic after a poor, double-double-less game against Virginia. Georgia Tech is a small team and was forced to play even smaller after Daniel Miller got in early foul trouble, so he had quite the height advantage. Still, he looked more determined and energetic than he had in the past, and there's no arguing with his stats, which were obviously great. The real challenge will come against Duke on Wednesday, but there's certainly nothing to be disappointed about here.
But really, we knew about Williams' awesomeness long ago, and it was hardly in doubt after just one lackluster performance. What was more encouraging and surprising was the play of Sean Mosley, who was a magnet of criticism based on his poor play in the ACC. He was in a mega-slump the past few games, including a goose egg game against Virginia, but he completely broke out of shell tonight.
Not only did he score 16 - his third-highest total of the season and the most since late December - he looked good and confident doing it. He shot a very respectable 6-13, but was really surprising was the 13; Mosley is known as King of Passing Up Shots, but he was much more assertive tonight. The 13 shots tied his highest total of the year and his trademark unnecessary pump fake was nowhere to be seen. As Ben G. said in the GameThread, he finally looked like the player we all thought and hoped he'd be this season. I have no idea whether he'll keep it up, but if he does he'll be a huge part of the team down the stretch.
One reason I'm not sure if he can keep it up: Adrian Bowie, who just as much a breakout star in the UVA game, definitely didn't. After dropping 22 on the Cavs on Thursday, Bowie had only three points today on 1-10 shooting, including several missed layups. That's not the Bowie we all know and love, and it certainly wasn't the Bowie that drops 20 on mediocre ACC opponents. A great performance wasn't really needed from him today, so no big worries on it, but it was interesting.
Another less than happy note: point guard play. (You can never not mention it.) Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard are both freshmen, so they're bound to have some bad games, but I can't remember both of them having truly bad performances in the same game. Stoglin at least provided some offense, scoring 13 points, but he had a shocking five turnovers. Howard wasn't much better: he had four. When your PGs combine for 9 TOs and just 2 assists, had a bad day. Georgia Tech is one of the better teams in the country at forcing turnovers and both are freshmen, so I'm not too concerned, but it's certainly worrying.
On the flip side, here's a pleasant surprise: Maryland shot the ball very well from the stripe. They were 24-32 from the stripe tonight - that's 75%. Things are even better when you look at a slightly larger trend: over the past three games, Maryland is 52-75 from the stripe, which is 69.3%. Their regular FT % is only 63%, which is one of the worst in the nation; 69.3% would put them at a very average 167th in the nation, which isn't great but is certainly good enough to not be a weakness. Jordan Williams hasn't taken quite as many FTs in the past few games, so we'll see if it holds up, but so far so good.
Just one more thing that normally wouldn't be noteworthy but is today: Maryland didn't hit a single three-pointer. That's not shocking considering their poor outside shooting in general, but they had hit a 3 in 407 consecutive games. That streak ended tonight, with just 6 attempts. They didn't really need the long ball tonight, but it's always sad when a streak ends. They'll need to knock down a few against Duke on Wednesday, but that's a different game against a different defense.
In the end, that's three straight wins. None of them were extremely impressive and none came against imposing opponents, but they were all wins, and that's the important thing. After the Virginia Tech debacle, I was certain they were going to drop one of these games. They didn't: they won all three, and all three were crucial to their tournament hopes. But now there are bigger fish to fry: namely, Duke at home.
That's right, it's Duke Week. (Er, Half-Week. Roll with it.)