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Maryland's Comeback Attempt Falls Short Against Illinois, 80-76

Two games in New York, two good scrappy performances, two close games, two comeback attempts, and two losses. Maryland's late comeback bid against Illinois fell short tonight in Madison Square Garden in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic consolation game, with the Terrapins losing 80-76.

The game was close for much of the first half, with the Illini pulling away midway through the second. Maryland made a late comeback in the final two minutes or so that was assisted by a 2-6 performance from the stripe by Illinois, but the Terrapins failed to knock down any of their many open three point attempts, ultimately leaving them just four points short. 

Maryland played fine for the most part, but just like the Pittsburgh game, had one giant flaw that gave the game away: the three-point differential. Maryland gave up a glut of open looks beyond the arc, and everyone on Illinois - from point guard Demetri McCamey to backup power forward Tyler Griffey - capitalized. The Illini were 10-21 from three and even went twelve game minutes scoring nothing except three-pointers and a couple free throws. They were big momentum shifts and limited Maryland's ability to get on a run in the middle of the game.

The Terrapins got plenty of open looks of their own, but whereas Illinois knocked theirs down, Maryland was just 5-18 from deep. Cliff Tucker, who was expected to be the sharpshooter, was 2-5 and was sitting on the bench during Maryland's late comeback (more in a second). Maryland had three open and potentially game-changing attempts in the final four minutes, but missed all of them. The 3-point differential was pretty clearly the decider in this game.

Other than that, Maryland really wasn't bad. The defense had its scary moments, especially on the perimeter, but that's fairly obvious from the stats. Elsewhere, it was more positive then negative. Maryland was surprisingly good on the boards, especially because they played much of the game without Jordan Williams. In fact, Maryland outrebounded a long, athletic Illinois team by 11 and picked up 15 offensive rebounds. Williams was a big presence on the glass (12 boards) and Maryland looked much better with him in, but it was all-in-all a much better performance on the boards than the Pittsburgh game.

Same goes for the performance from the line. After looking terrible from the stripe for three games in a row, the Terps hit 13 of 18 free throws. Even Jordan Williams was a respectable 3-5.

Offensively, Maryland's still got some work to do. Williams is clearly the go-to guy offensively, but when he's off the floor, Maryland's in trouble. Up until last night, they tried to get their perimeter points from Cliff Tucker. Tucker, though, was just 3-14 from the floor and sat for much of the game after a terrible pass in transition that submarined Maryland's comeback bid for a short period. He wasn't the same impactful guy of the past few games, and that seriously hurt. Half court offense was an adventure without Williams.

As far as individual performances go, I'll keep it short. Jordan was solid and had another double-double, his 6th in the past 7 games. More importantly, Sean Mosley's been welcomed back to the party, going 5-11 (many of the misses came late) with 5 boards and 5 assists for 14 points. Solid performance and he was even better on defense. He looked much more comfortable and confident.

I mentioned in the recap of the last game that Adrian Bowie was leading the PG race due more to the play of Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard than his own. Stoglin answered the call tonight though, leading Maryland with 17 points and providing the only measure of consistency. For all the comments he gets from Bob Knight about taking bad shots and playing out of control, he was 6-12 from the field (3-7 from deep) with no turnovers. He's not a traditional point guard that will get everyone involved, but he's more of a Scottie Reynolds/Dominic James type scorer that plays point guard. He's moving in on Bowie and Gary's clearly taking a liking to him. He was one of the better players on the court.

Dino Gregory was fine to me. 10 points, 10 boards, 2 blocks. He really validated himself tonight. James Padgett and Berend Weijs were similar stories; Padge had 6 points on three momentum-changing dunks and Weijs had three boards a nice block in limited time. Neither are anywhere close to being complete players, but not everyone has to be.

I'll have thoughts on the tournament as a whole later tonight. Ben G. may or may not be doing another "Four Things" post. I'll leave you with this: Maryland faced two experienced, talented top-25 teams in Madison Square Garden. They played poorly and beat themselves both nights. Both nights, they were within reach with 2 minutes to go. For being 0-2 in this tournament, I feel really good about this team's potential.