Oh, there's so much to say. There's the egg laid by the upperclassmen guards. There's the low number of forced turnovers. There's letting a 37% 3pt shooter go 5-5 from deep. There's the long, patented five-minute scoring drought at the end of the game. And so, so much more. But all of that later: first, let's recap.
Terrell Stoglin dropped a career-high 25 points for Maryland, but Terrapin-killer Erick Green (who scored 24 in the Terps' thrashing in January) dropped 20 - including two 3s late in the game - as Virginia Tech defeated the Terrapins in a hard-fought contest, 91-83.
This may be a death knell for the Terrapins' tourney chances, as it was widely believed they needed to win both the VT and UNC games to sneak into the tournament. Now their hopes rest in the ACC tournament.
Virginia Tech started the game on a 7-2 run, but Maryland stormed back quickly, riding a surprisingly effective zone defense and Terrell Stoglin, who scored 15 in the first half. Despite being outplayed for the first ten minutes or so, the Terrapins took a 44-41 lead into halftime.
The second half was close and hard-fought, with the teams trading leads by the possession. Green hit a three-pointer with 3:25 to go that stretched the Hokies' lead to 6, which for all intents and purposes finished the game for the Terrapins. Between 5:25 and 1:11, Maryland was held scoreless while VT went on a 9-0 run, turning a tie game into a sizable Hokie lead.
Such late droughts have become commonplace for the Terrapins (see the Villanova game). The mantra for this team has become "good, but not good enough." Its those types of late offensive collapses that are preventing this team from reaching the next level; which is, presumably, the NCAA Tournament level.
Also notable was the lax defensive effort. Maryland went with a 3-2 zone for much of the game, and though it worked rather well early on, VT quickly figured out that it could be easily defeated with penetration to the elbows and kickouts to the corner. The zone is normally seen as passive, and it certainly was for the Terps: Maryland's defense normally creates dozens of turnovers, but they only forced 8 today. When you give away 15, you can't afford that.
Piggybacking off that, the defense on Tech's perimeter shooters was pretty shoddy, too. Terrell Bell is a 37% 3-point shooter, but was 5-5 from beyond the arc today. Why? Because he was left open all five times. Green shoots 25% from 3, but hit two huge ones down the stretch. Why? He was left open. As a team, the Hokies shot about 9% better from 3 than they normally do - not incredibly great, but certainly harmful.
I could go on and on about the defense. The poor rotation. The fact that Victor Davila was allowed to get 14 points off nothing but dunks. The fact that Malcolm Delaney shot 14 free throws. All of these things, when combined, paint a less-than-flattering picture of a performance turned out a team supposedly so strong defensively. Metric stats be damned, it's time to put that myth aside.
The final big problem, next to the complete lack of scoring offense down the stretch and the poor defense, was the no-show from the upperclassmen in the backcourt: Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker, and Sean Mosley seriously underperformed. They combined for 17 points, which is a low total, but even most of those came from Tucker's 10 in the first half.
What's really important, though, is the goose egg in the second half: two points, 1-4 shooting, three turnovers. Aside from the ridiculousness of the fact that the three most experienced guards on Maryland's team only took four shots as their offense went to pieces in a crucial game, they weren't even effective shots. Things get worse the more you look at them: Bowie missed a critical, point-blank layup; Tucker was 1-6 from three, many of them wide open; Mosley fouled out.
These are the types of games in which you need senior leadership, especially from your guards. The guys that are touching the ball every single possession have to be steady, and it's something you rarely get out of freshmen in tight, important games. Maryland didn't get that steadiness today, and they paid for it.
Then again, I want to make it clear that I'm not blaming the players. Mosley was disappointing given his billing, and Tucker was a borderline top 100 guy, but there wasn't a point-blank shoo-in among the three. They are who they are. I hardly want to blame Gary, either, for his top 100 guys not turning out. But the buck stops somewhere, and I don't know where else for it to stop. One top 100 guy not turning out isn't a big deal. What is a big deal is not having the talent to support such a setback.
We're going to end on a few positive notes, because they did exist in this game. It's tough to see them through the whole "probable NIT team" thing now, but they're there. The two most prominent: Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard. Not enough words can be written about them, or enough playing time be given. It's not as if both need to start, but they both need serious minutes, and a lot of them should come on the floor together. They are Maryland's best perimeter players; it's that simple.
Stoglin's 15 first-half points were the biggest reason Maryland was leading at half, but even more than that, helooked good. He's never been noted for his quickness, but he looked downright Wall-like tonight on the break. His passing, court awareness, and at-times-unbelievable quickness made him a force. But what really defines Stoglin is whether or not his shot is falling, and tonight, it was. Much of this was thanks to a few easy buckets on the break, but 7-12 from the field and 10-10 from the line is what it is.
Howard, meanwhile, is a steadier force. He isn't as streaky as Stoglin, and that's a good thing. He's a rock right now, which is tough to do as a freshman. He'll still make the occasional mistake - see the Jimmer Three he took in the first half - but he's smart, heady, and passes extremely well. What's more important, he's clutch - when a play needs to be made, like when VT hit a three to pull within one early in the second half, he's the guy that makes the play in return (he answered with a three). He won't make every play, but it's a good sign for the future.
Neither of them are perfect yet. Stoglin makes mistakes. Howard won't be as solid as he was today. Neither are great defensively. But they're the future, and right now, they're a very promising future. If Maryland does happen to go anywhere this year, as miraculous an act as that may require, they'll probably get there on their backs.
And props go out to both Dino Gregory and Jordan Williams, albeit with caveats for both. Jordan was at times invisible today, often looking unprepared and inactive in the half-court offense (he was caught off-guard multiple times by Howard and Stoglin passes). Still, though, 16 points and 9 boards is 16 and 9, no matter what.
As for Dino: he's been everything I thought he'd be, and then some. He's probably Maryland's most consistent, reliable player, and with a team as full of on-again-off-again types as this one, that's pretty important. His 12 points were welcome today, and they came at useful times. The problem: he folded down the stretch, getting beaten to a board by Victor Davila and missing the ensuing layup in the final minutes. Still, he's ultimately a role player playing starter minutes, so I have to forgive the occasional slip-up. It was just awful timing.
To wrap it up, Maryland's tournament hopes are in a precarious position. If they win out, they'll be 10-6 in the ACC, which would mean they still have a chance. But even a 4-1 finish, putting them at 9-7 in the conference, would likely be too little, especially if the loss came at UNC. The ACC simply has too weak of a perception for a 9-7 team to get in unless they can make the ACCT finals, or something similar.
And seeing as how I have little faith that Maryland can win @UNC, @Miami, and at home against FSU, I'm thinking the tournament hopes of this team rest in the ACCT. That's interesting: much like the Gilchrist team of yore, this squad could beat literally any team in the conference if they hit it right. They could also lose to any team in the conference, for that matter. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but I'm not expecting anything north of the NIT for this team.
Oi. What a week.