I was one of the many who predicted a win over Cal, but I didn't expect it to be nearly this easy. Maryland had the five minute scoreless streak that one comes to expect after rooting for the Terps, but other than that, it was a wonderfully played game. If not for that five minute stretch, this could've been a 20 point win, instead of 13.
The biggest, most obvious plus was how they defended the 3pt line. Cal normally shoots in the 40% area, but today they shot a lowly 29%, some of which was made up near the end of the game. The supposedly unstoppable Jerome Randle had only 14 points; he made a few amazing plays, but was shut down for the most part by some great defense from Adrian Bowie. Then there's Patrick Christopher, the SG for Cal, who, normally 49% from 3, went 0-7 from distance. Cal truly died with the jumper today. More impressive, Maryland wasn't torched on the boards. They lost by four rebounds, but they consistently got out on shooters. Cal should've dominated the battle on the boards, but they didn't. The great defense opened up some easy offensive opportunities, which gave the Terps confidence in their offensive game. The confidence made it easier to work in the half court, and Maryland just executed perfectly in both the halfcourt and in transition.
The first and second halves really were two different games. In the first half, Cal was finding options outside of 3pt shooting, and Maryland couldn't distance themselves. It really was a close game that made you worried. The first eight minutes in the second half were similarly close. Cal battled back to take a lead, and everyone rooting for Maryland started to feel a bit antsy.
But much like the NCSt game, they responded perfectly to losing the lead at about the 12 minute mark. After that point, everything went right for Maryland. Hayes, Vasquez, and Milbourne hit open jumpers. Dino Gregory was extremely active once again (loved the put back dunk). Adrian Bowie made his return to the offense. Dave Neal was grabbing rebounds and making shots. Charges were called on Cal instead of blocks on Maryland. Everything was working. I can't remember the last time that happened. Generally, we're on the other side of that.
This was the type of performance Maryland needs against Memphis to compete. Vasquez put up 27, but he had help. Neal had 15, Bowie had 12, Hayes had 14, and Milbourne had 9. You can't complain about those totals. The way all the pieces are starting to come together and find their place is pretty special.
In case you missed it, Memphis nearly lost to Cal St. Northridge earlier in the day. CS-Northridge had as much as a 6 point lead in the second half, and a 3 point lead with just 9 minutes left. In fact, if it weren't for Roburt Sallie's incredible, unexpected performance (he put up 35, and he averaged 4.5 this year), Memphis probably loses that game. The zone really hurt them, which is great news for Maryland. Memphis' offense is pretty much passing the ball around looking for a mismatch or good look. The zone can have a lot of success against that kind of play. If they shoot as poorly as they did today (minus Sallie), the 3-2 zone that worked so well in the ACCT could very well kill their offense.
I think Maryland proved today that they were the team that finished out the season with two ACCT wins. Memphis, however, proved they weren't the team that looked so dominant in the C-USA. Memphis is very beatable, and I don't think I'd want any coach other than Gary Williams to coach this game. I wouldn't go so far as to predict a victory, but Memphis isn't unbeatable.