GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 10: Jordan Vandenberg #14 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack fights for possession of the ball against Haukur Palsson #13 of the Maryland Terrapins during the first half of the game in the first round of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 10, 2011 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Ok, so maybe it wasn't as bad as Virginia, but Maryland's late-game collapse was still pretty nerve-racking. The Terrpains came this close to letting N.C. State storm back from a 15-point in just five minutes, but thanks to a stellar defensive play by Sean Mosley and four clutch late free throws by Maryland's freshmen guards, they walked away with a narrow victory. It was Terrell Stoglin's two late free throws that iced the win for Maryland, giving the game its 75-67 margin.
Maryland started the game with rare focus and energy, opening with a 12-2 run and getting a first half lead as large as 14. N.C. State closed with a late 8-0 run to cut the Terrapins' lead to 6, but Maryland got it back out to 9 by halftime.
The Wolfpack did well early in the second half, getting the lead down to 7 with about 12:00 left. Maryland answered with a 7-0 run, though, and looked like the better team for the next, oh, ten minutes or so. Then came a furious N.C. State rally to make things interesting at the end.
In short, the Wolfpack finally started to hit some shots and Maryland made a few poor decisions; those two factors worked in combination to let N.C. State back in the game, getting within seven points again in the final minute (thought it felt much closer). Sean Mosley had a huge defensive possession, with both a block and a steal, and Maryland's two freshmen guards Pe'Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin hit five free throws down the stretch to ice it. It wasn't pretty, especially late, but they lived to fight another day. That may be all they live for, but you have to start somewhere.
Let's break down the five-minute collapse, though. Ignore things defensively for a moment (I'll look at it later). Just look at how bad things got offensively: over the last 5:10 of the game, Maryland was 1-5 from the field with 5 turnovers. The play-by-play for a three-minute stretch: miss, off. rebound, turnover, turnover, miss, turnover, miss, off. rebound, turnover. It was that bad. Luckily, basketball is a forty-minute game, and Maryland was pretty good the other 35 minutes.
A quick statistical tour of important things: Jordan Williams did what you expect, with 16 points and 13 boards. That's turned into a rather pedestrian statline for him, in all honesty (still awesome). Dino Gregory was the second-leading scorer for Maryland and the only other Terrapin with double-figures (he finished with 11). Both of the freshmen point guards had average games - they combined for 16 points, 8 TOs, and 5 assists - and that doesn't bode well for the future. They'll need to improve if Maryland's to have any chance against Duke.
As a team, Maryland won this one on its defense. Holding any team, even one as disorganized as N.C. State, to 33% from the field is pretty impressive. Better, they held them to 12% from deep, too (2-17, if you can believe it). The 'Pack had 22 more shots than Maryland, but it really doesn't matter much when you shoot so poorly from the field.
That said, if N.C. State was shooting better, Maryland would've been in serious trouble with that shot deficit. They were working at pretty sizable deficits in both offensive rebounds (17-7) and turnovers (16-9). (For the stat-junkies out there, the rebounding rate was almost as bad even when made tempo-free). That would spell trouble against a team like Duke, which will almost certainly shoot better than N.C. State did.
The turnovers go back mainly to the point guards. Simply, you can't have five turnovers from your starting point guard (Stoglin) and another three from your only one off the bench (Howard). It's not like Maryland has anywhere else to go, but that needs to be a point of emphasis in the future.
One big surprise was found in the starting lineup, with Haukur Palsson getting the starting nod over Pe'Shon Howard, Cliff Tucker, and Sean Mosley. Hawk did a great job early, scoring five of Maryland's first 12 points, but he calmed down after that. Still, all in all, I liked the lineup: it gave Maryland some height, and it's not like they're missing much offense with Palsson over Mosley. Does defense take a hit? It should, but it didn't seem to today. I'm expecting the same lineup tomorrow.
Surprise contributor of the night: James Padgett. I mentioned him in the RBP in the GameThread, and he actually did okay. His statline wasn't fantastic - 6 points, 7 boards - but it was darn solid, especially off the bench. He was more active on both ends tonight, and it was good to see. Having a strong big man off the bench is a luxury Maryland's lacked this year.
I'm not going to analyze much more, because I don't see the use in it so late in the season. But I'll say this: for five minutes, Maryland looked determined. They were energetic and drive; they looked like they did against Pitt early in the year, or maybe the first Duke game. They looked, quite honestly, like a team destined to make a run.
But that dropped off pretty quickly. This isn't a team much different from the one that was dropping games to UVA and Miami a week ago. The same deadly flaws - defensive breakdowns, offensive breakdowns, turnovers, inconsistent perimeter scoring, turnovers, rebounding - were there, and they're too much to overcome. Maryland can beat Duke tomorrow, sure, but if they do, it won't be the same team we just saw. The one that started the game, sure, but certainly not the one that played all forty minutes.