Maryland doesn't always get burnt by a team's random bench player, but it sure does seem like it. The latest culprit: Miami's Rion Brown, who scored 19 points against Maryland in an 80-66 win for the Hurricanes.
Brown normally averages 3.7 ppg and hadn't scored more than 9 points since a game against McNeese St. back in November, but tonight he summoned the spirit of Erick Green and Leslie McDonald - both whom unexpectedly torched Maryland in previous games - to shoot an unbelievable 6-7 from beyond the arc (he didn't even attempt a 2-pointer). Coming into the game, he had made six three-pointers total in ACC play. So yes, in one game, he doubled the number of threes he hit in conference play. Lax three-point defense will do that.
Brown's unexpected 19 points and Reggie Johnson's 12-point, 15-rebound game was enough to carry Miami over the Terrapins, and it probably spelled the end of the road for Maryland. The Terrapins' best player was Terrell Stoglin (perhaps unsurprisingly), and he led all scorers with 20 points. Jordan Williams, normally Maryland's star, shot 3-17 from the field - not an easy feat when all of his attempted shots are within about 6 feet of the basket.
The start of the game was relatively even, with Maryland holding an early 10-8 lead. But the Terrapins underwent a four-minute scoreless streak, and Miami took advantage with a 15-4 run. After that, Maryland never got closer than 8 in the first half, and Miami took a 13-point lead into the break. Maryland fought back to get within 5 in the second half, but terrible perimeter defense and great outside shooting from Miami made sure they wouldn't get closer.
More thoughts post-jump:
Maryland did a lot of the little things well. They shot well from outside (50%). They won the turnover battle, which they had to do. And they even won the rebounding battle. Unfortunately, none of that matters when they shoot 34% from the field and let the opposition shoot 55%.
For once, it's pretty simple: Maryland couldn't make shots, and Miami could. It's basic, but that's what it boils down to. The shooting percentages tell you everything you need to know about this game.
And I hate to criticize Maryland's best player, but Jordan Williams was a pretty sizable reason for that. He was faced with something new tonight: someone so large he couldn't get past, through, or around. Reggie Johnson is a solid 300, so Jordan was stymied in the post. He turned to a little turnaround, fadeaway jumper, and it's just not a shot in his arsenal. He shot 3-10 in the first half and didn't make a single bucket in the second. I'd wager at least 8 of his 17 shots were turnaround jumpers.
Maybe he has the flu, which was the rumor after the UNC game, during which he was also poor. Something seems to be affecting him, whatever it is. His level of play has taken a nosedive lately, and that effectively ends Maryland's chances at making a serious run. He was unquestionably outplayed by Johnson tonight.
Going back to the shooting thing for a second: Maryland doesn't have the worst three-point defense in the world, but sometimes they could fool you with it. Since ACC play started, they've been 9th in the conference in 3pt defense. I'm expecting that to drop to at least 10th after tonight's 12-23 (52%) fiasco. Miami got open looks - Rion Brown especially - and they hit them. It was a pretty poor defensive performance on the perimeter (late closeouts happened way too much) and it's reflected in the stats.
Another defensive note: I was worried about Miami's scoring ability before the game, and I happened to be right (not to brag). The Canes had 5 players in double-figures, each with at least 12. They have four legitimate scorers and found a fifth tonight in Brown; that's tough to match up with.
On the other side, Maryland has one legitimate scorer these days - Stoglin - and he does just about all he can. It's not enough to get the occasional 8-to-12 point game out of one of the upperclassmen; Maryland needs some offensive consistency, and they have none.
There seems to be a lack of leadership, experience, chemistry, or some other unquantifiable value in the locker room at this point. Maryland looked disorganized and - dare I say it - disinterested at times tonight. Worse, they've been faced with two straight critical, all-but-must-wins in the ACC, and they laid first-half eggs in both of them. I'm guessing the lack of leadership from the seniors hurts there. No matter the reason, that's on the team (or coach) somewhere, and it's disheartening.
One final, supremely unimportant note: Mychal Parker got first-half playing time, and more than just a token minute or two to light a fire under the starters. More than a few questions have been asked about Parker's lack of playing time in spite of his high ranking, so it was good to finally see him get some serious burn (about four minutes in the first half). He looks kind of awkward, but that's to be expected with so little time under his belt. If nothing else, he was active; he wasn't great, but hey: he played. So there was that.
The season is pretty much lost for Maryland barring a miracle ACC tournament run that's almost certainly not coming. It's more constructive (and less painful) at this point to just look forward to the future, and it's a pretty bright one. My closing advice: instead of fretting over the failed senior campaigns of Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker, dream of a future including Faust, Breunig, Stoglin, and Williams. You'll feel better, trust me.