The loss was heartbreaking in it's own right, but it was even worse because we could all see the signs coming before they came to a peak.
Three separate times in the second half, before Miami even came within 3, I mentioned something about Morgan State in my notes. It seemed clear that the rally the team had in the first 8 minutes or so of the second half was not sustainable. It could've been, had the team not slowly begin to stagnate, but the signs of this happening were clear about 5 minutes in, at least to me.
What happened? Why did the team suddenly switch from point-scoring maniacs to guys who can't make a shot? The pace of the offense.
In the first eight minutes of the second half, as well as most of the first half, the pace of the game was rapid. Maryland would fly down the court, make a pass or two, and either shoot it or drive the lane. This kept Miami on their heels. In turn with this, decision-making was quick and decisive. Hayes would get the ball, check left, check right, decide to drive, and shoot a floater with no doubt. Vasquez wouldn't hesitate before taking a three. Bowie would drive the second he saw a hole.
This decisiveness disappeared when the offense slowed. Players seemed hesitant - they didn't want to take a shot too early and end up with a quick, wasted possession. This tactic, much like the prevent defense in football (of which we all know far too well), does nothing except prevent you from winning. With 12 minutes left, the team needs to push just as hard as they were the rest of the game; it's too long of a time to just play the Four Corners offense and try to wait out. Plus, with the margin they had, a few mistakes were permissible if they kept the offense in rhythm.
I'm not going to ignore all other factors, though - perhaps bigger than the lack of urgency in the offense was the lack of urgency on the boards. This should give you an idea of exactly what I mean:
The only time the Terps had an advantage on the boards? 6:42 into the game. Miami had a whopping 20 offensive rebounds on the day. I remember a possession (I'm sure you do, too - the one with Joey Graham) where Miami had at least four or five boards. Granted, they only got a point out of it, but that's way too many in any situation.
Yet another problem was the lack of a playmaker after Bowie left the game. During Miami's run, I constantly kept thinking "Okay, time for Vasquez to hit a three and do a little weird dance and get the team fired up again." It never happened. "Time for GV to hit a layup falling down." Didn't happen. I find it hard to criticize Vasquez, because he made very few mistakes in the game (compared to his normal game). It seemed almost a statement game from him: you (the fans heckling him) wanted him to make less mistakes, so that's what you'll get. It would explain his hesitant play all game. Remember the quote by Tennessee Williams: "Kill all my demons, and my angels might die too."
Yesterday was the time the team really needed him to step up, but he seemed afraid - for the first time in his career - to face the consequences of what would happen if he failed. I really think the fans did affect him.
There's more to write about, and more will be coming (eventually). The team outplayed Miami for 30 out of 40 minutes, but, for the second time this year, it seems they can't maintain a lead for longer than that.