"Tale of Two Halves" doesn't begin to describe what just happened in Charlottesville. Maryland went to #22 Virginia and matched them step for step in the first half, draining seven three-pointers and taking a 31-31 tie into halftime. And then they self-destructed.
Virginia started off on a 16-2 run in the second half, jumping out to a huge lead that would only grow as the game went on. Maryland's second half was arguably the worst twenty minutes of basketball I've watched this year: in the second period the Terrapins shot 5-24 from the field and turned the ball over 12 times, scoring only 13 points. Virginia? They scored 40. It. Was. Brutal.
The Cavaliers, for their part, continued strong offensive play, but largely this was a game lost by Maryland's complete and utter inability to do anything on the offensive end, which was so strange given the lights-out first-half performance. For the advanced stats geeks out there, Maryland's first half efficiency was 102. At the end of the game, it was 70. That's an almost unfathomable drop.
In the end, Mike Scott manhandled Maryland's front line, finishing with 25 points, while Terrell Stoglin was held scoreless in the second half, and Virginia coasted to an all-too-easy 71-44 victory.I'm a bit numbed by the turn of events, and I'm not sure how much analysis can be done. The obvious thing you can say about Maryland is that they shot the cover off the ball in the first half - 7-13 from outside, including two from Nick Faust - and didn't in the second, going 0-6 from deep. There wasn't much difference in the shot quality; Maryland just doesn't have a team of snipers, and was never likely to keep hitting upwards of 50% from deep no matter how open they might've been.
It's the calculated gamble made every game by Tony Bennett and his pack line defense. The pack line is notoriously difficult to break down, and often times the best shot will be on the outside (defenders play far off the player who doesn't have the ball, so a quick rotation can result in an open look). But for a team like Maryland, which is average at best from deep, doing that risky.
Thing is, Maryland's offense really doesn't have much else to go to. We've known this all year. Not only is there only one real scorer on the team (Stoglin), there's no point guard and there's little in the way of offensive rhythm. It takes a well-oiled machine to break down Virginia's defense. Maryland is most certainly not that, and we saw them run into a buzzsaw in the second half when those shots stopped falling.
The other fatal flaw exposed by today's game might've been the frontcourt. On the first mark, you saw Mike Scott walk all over Maryland's bigs, doing more or less whatever he wanted. The best answer, ironically, was Sean Mosley, but even he was only of limited effectiveness (unsurprisingly, because he was giving up four inches). On the other end, Maryland has no frontcourt player of their own to create mismatches, and certainly no one to simply look to score. James Padgett can put up buckets in a garbageman fashion, which everyone loves, but Ashton Pankey and Alex Len are as of yet unable to complement that with a real post-up game. That's one of the very few ways you can look to get points against almost any defense, and Maryland has almost nothing there.
I'm not making an excuse, but I do think it's worthwhile to provide some context in regards to scheduling. Maryland had 38 hours in-between the end of the Boston College game late Thursday night and the start of the Virginia game on Saturday afternoon - on the road, no less. Virginia, on the other hand, played their last game on Tuesday and has had a full three days of rest. Maryland's already a thin team, and while their collapse can be contributed to quite a bit of their own doing, fatigue played into it too. I'm not sure why the ACC thought that would be a fair fight. (At least switch the home/away, guys.)
Anyway, I come away from today a bit more dismayed than I expected to be about the state of Maryland basketball. There's obviously still a long way to go for this bunch. That said, I'll make two personnel notes before I leave you: first of all, I continued to be impressed by Nick Faust, even when looking at the entire game. Faust's first half was great (second-leading scorer on the team with nine points) and he continues to look more confident every game. That said, he's not a point guard, and the second half proved that definitively. Some were starting to feel comfortable with Nick as a backup option at the point, and this is a reminder as to why something like that should be avoided. More than anything else, he needs to work on his loose handle; he dribbles with the ball far too far from his body, and it gets him into trouble, especially against pesky guards that he's facing now at the point. He can be a terror on the wing, but on the ball he's really hit-or-miss.
(To a lesser extent, I was also encouraged by Mychal Parker. Spot duty, sure, but I'm seeing more out of him.)
The other note is on Terrell Stoglin, who was lights-out in the first half and struggled in the second. He's a monster off the ball, as we know, but he needs an offense functioning around him to be at his best. In the second half that wasn't there, and he often looked to make things happen on his own, with occasionally disastrous results. Virginia is all about helping out on defense and he wasn't able to get anything off the dribble, which frustrated him and in turn led to more poor shots. It's tough to watch, but at the same time you got the feeling that Stoglin finding his zone was the only way Maryland would score in the second half. Again, a true point would be fantastic for Stoglin, especially because it'd let Faust be more effective on the wing.
Enjoy what's left of your weekend. I hope the last hour wasn't too painful for you.