Now that everyone's calmed down from the hub-bub surrounding The Pe'Shot, it's time to talk about all those other things I mentioned in the game recap. There were quite a few awesome things that went down in the game and quite a few more bad things, but now I'm of a clear enough mind - and won't feel guilty - to go over what would normally have gone in the game recap.
Remember, this was a game that Maryland probably should've had by double-digits but played quite poorly in and needed a last-second shot to pull out. Just making sure we're all clear on that before moving on.
- Cliff Tucker was what everyone hoped he would be...and then some. Seriously, who expected Tucker to not only be solid offensively and Maryland's second leading scorer but also the Terps' lockdown defender? Offensively, he was good for 15 points, some surprising confidence, and a lot of moderately difficult buckets down the stretch. Defensively, Andrew Goudelock lit up Sean Mosley and scored on Pe'Shon Howard, but Tucker held him scoreless for the final eight minutes of the game. He's always had the scoring touch and the physical tools, but it's nice to see him finally excel offensively and just straight-up surprise defensively. We need to see more to see if he's for real, but a player to help out Sean Mosley on the perimeter, on both ends of the court, would be a huge asset.
- Mosley, on the other hand, was disappointing, but don't get too down yet. No one knows if he can progress to become The Guy on the perimeter yet, but I find it highly unlikely that he would regress as much as it looked like he did last night. Of the starters, only Dino Gregory attempted (4) and made (0) fewer shots than Mosley (5 and 1, respectively); guess that whole "defer" habit is hard to break. It was a struggle defensively, too, and though it largely excusable because it was Goudelock, the fact that Cliff Tucker could shut him down was a head-scratcher. This was the first time I think you could describe him as "lazy." He was more than fine against Seattle - led Maryland with 21 points - and was a rock last year, so I don't expect that in the future; it's not his game, and he should be fine. Bad day, I'm guessing.
- Ditto on free throw shooting. Yeah, it was awful. Like 27% awful. Like if they hit just half of their shots they don't need The Pe'Shot. But don't get too up-in-arms over 13 missed shots, at least for the time being: that's not only an easily correctable flaw for the most part, it was also the exact opposite case against Seattle. Maryland shot 41 free throws against the Redhawks and hit 80% of them. There was a lot more success in the bigger sample size. Too early to call this one either way and it needs to improve if the CoC game is the biggest indication, but it's far from my biggest worry right now.
- That probably falls to turnovers and guard play... Pe'Shon looks like a potential answer to this, but as a freshman point guard, I doubt that'll hold up long-term in the ACC. In fact, this might be Maryland's biggest weakness all year (I know, I'm a doubter). 25 turnovers a contest isn't going to hold up for long, and though part of that was the helter-skelter pace of the games plus the press, the passing is clearly below-par. Better, more athletic teams will cause even more problems. There's even some problems in transition. Not good signs.
- ...with a small helping of outside shooting. It doesn't look like Maryland has a legitimate replacement for Eric Hayes as the sharpshooter - Cliff Tucker has hit just one of his five attempted threes, and Haukur Palsson hasn't been on the floor enough to embrace that role. They're a combined 4-15 from deep through the first two games despite several open looks; finding an outside shooter to stretch the defense would be nice and would surely take some pressure off Williams.
- So what's with that Dino Gregory/James Padgett paradigm again? I'm not going to hate on Dino for an 0-4, 4 board, 4 foul performance. He had to sit a lot, I get that, and pitched in a couple of forced turnovers. He didn't come out and slap me in the face with bad play, so I'm fine. But he was out of the game for long stretches at a time with foul trouble, so James Padgett played...four minutes? It's so weird I double-checked. In those four minutes he was 2-3 with a board, which is perfectly efficient to me. Maryland needs height and an inside presence, and this was a darn good time to get Padgett some much-needed experience. I understand the logic behind it - Maryland needed ball-handlers against the press - but it's a head-scratcher nonetheless, especially because Palsson got 10 minutes of his own. I like Hawk, but not twice as much as Padge.
- Random here, but you have to love the Red Berend. Only three minutes and two fouls, but that ugly shot at the buzzer of halftime was big for momentum reasons. Plus, he gets more excited than anyone else on the team. After every bucket in the final eight minutes or so, he'd stand up and cheer. No one else on the bench stood up, not even the assistant coaches, but Berend was psyched. He was the same way during the Maryland Madness intros, too; you kind of get the feeling that he just woke up and found himself as a scholarship player on a D-I team, and he's going to milk it for all it's worth. It's fun to watch.
- Despite the mistakes, I'm actually moderately impressed with the outing. Maryland's a young team this year, and these are the types of games it's not unusual for young teams lose. Heck, Maryland is generally good to lose them anyway - American, William & Mary, Ohio, and so on. They aren't out of the woods yet, but in years past, you get the feeling that most teams close on the Terrapins and get out with a win. Look at all that went wrong: Andrew Goudelock took the game over, Sean Mosley phoned it in, the free throw shooting was abominable, they turned it over too much, Adrian Bowie left the game, and Dino Gregory was in foul trouble. And don't forget that CoC is a legitimate team that very well may be dancing in March. Maryland never folded and actually, somewhat improbably, pulled out a win. The casual fans that say "Oh wow, Maryland almost lost to a random team I've never heard of," are really over-simplifying it. Maybe I'm just being uncharacteristically optimistic, I don't know, and I recognize that there are a lot of areas that need to be improved, but there's a pretty nice base here. If Mosley comes back to life, Tucker stays where he is, and the free-throw shooting gets fixed, this'll be a nice little squad.