When your a fan of a team and you have some free time on your hands, sometimes you start to think (usually irrationally) about how your underdog team can pull off an upset over a power. This week the Terps had it all come together for once. They were coming off the worst loss of the season against Virginia. With a week to get his teams focus and to really work on some team issues instead of focussing more attention on the opponent, Mark Turgeon had Maryland ready to go from the start. That’s the Maryland side of the perfect storm. On the Duke side, they were coming off a tough week. Starting last Sunday when the Boston area snow disrupted their normal travel plans to BC. They held on there. Midweek they had their big game with UNC. And finally on the 3rd game in 6 days, they had to come into Comcast Center to face a student section that knew this was mostly likely going to be Duke’s final visit to College Park. Hence the perfect storm. All week I kept thinking about those things, as I tried to grasp for a reason why the Terps might be able to win after that horrible effort against UVA. Some how, despite 26 turnovers, the Terps did enough to win.
First, I have to hand it to the students. We showed up about 35 minutes before the tip, and they were ready to go. It’s a shame they can’t put forth 75% of that effort game in and game out, but we can save that for another day. They were in it early, and I think the Terps really fed off that. When Jake Layman hit that early three, it just seemed to energize them and they were in it every possession from there on.
The game itself was well played, if you take away that turnover issue, which can’t easily be brushed aside. The four bigs did an outstanding job on Mason Plumlee. I think he only had one basket in a set offensive play. One was on an alley-oop fast break. All four deserve credit for guarding him and offensively they made him work pretty hard as well. James Padgett had a couple of post moves where Plumlee bought the move and Padgett was able to get to the rim for a fairly easy basket. And of course Alex Len was able to use his size pretty well against Plumlee.
If you think back to the game at Duke, they shot lights out from three, as did UVA last week. It was probably just the motivation Turgeon needed to drive home the fact that you have to guard the three. Last night they did as good of a job as I can remember against Duke. Holding them to 6-19 shooting from deep is more than you can ask for, with Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon patrolling the perimeter.
The Terps answered every Duke run. They shot well from the field hitting on 60% of their shots, and scoring an eye opening 48 second half points. Let that sink in. From the free throw line, they made just enough, none more clutch than Seth Allen’s 2 with 2.8 seconds remaining. On the day they shot 73% from the line. I really felt the shot selection was much improved this game. Of course their choice of passes often left me baffled, but they kept their composure when they needed it most, and pulled off the big upset.
I think another huge point to look at was when Duke went small, Maryland seemed to be able to take advantage of their size this game. If you think back to the UVA game, UVA dictated the lineup we would use. This game Turgeon stuck with the bigger lineup and they were able to use it as a strength. They out rebounded Duke 40-20. Alex Len showed why his draft stock is high. He did a much better job of establishing himself closer to the blocks and seemed much more prepared to do something with the basketball when he received the pass. I also think the guards did a much better job of getting him the ball when he was open. You also have to applaud his 7 of 8 form the line.
Despite 8 turnovers, you have to give Seth Allen some credit. He didn’t pout or put his head down. He kept it together and made some big plays down the stretch. His ability to get to the rim a couple of times ultimately may have been the difference. He finished the game with 16 points, none bigger than the go ahead free throws. Sure he had 8 turnovers, but some of those were not 100% on him. Mitchell threw a pass right as his head from 5 feet away. Another pass or two was at his feet. He needs to tighten that up, but his teammates have to put him in a better position.
For the negatives, obviously the turnovers are the biggest thing. This could have been a 10 point win, instead of having to hold our breath on Quinn Cook’s 30 footer. It amazed me how Duke was essentially employing a one man press. All they had to do was deny the guard on the inbound pass, and we panicked like he was the ONLY guy that could bring the ball up court. Then if we brought a second guy to the ball they got to close to together and the pass was a disaster waiting to happen. Point guard play has got to improve if this team is going to make a serious push for the tournament.
Finally, I think you have to give Turgeon a ton of credit here. My guess is these guys were down on themselves a bit following UVA. This was one of those games, where I feel like there was a 100% chance Gary was going to win. For Turgeon to take care of business it was huge. The week off came at the right time, and he had the guys ready to go. They were much improved defending Duke compared to the game a Cameron. They did a better job of getting the potential out of Alex Len. It was big for him. If you saw his presser, he was pretty emotional. Sounded like his young kids didn’t react well to some comments at the UVA game, and this was rewarding for him. Up until this point, he hasn’t had that moment yet. Gary had the Georgetown game. Turgeon had a couple of nice wins, but nothing huge. This could be his win that 5 years from now we turn to and say that was when it turned around for Maryland. At least, I hope so!
Now of course, they go into the College
Basketball Hockey hotbed known as BC. It will likely be a fairly dull crowd at Conte, and the Terps need to generate their own enthusiasm. They need to take care of that game, or everything that we gained from beating Duke will be lost.
Oh, and one last final thought, how many of you thought Dez was going to send that fast break dunk soaring to the rafters after clanging it off the rim? When I saw him going with two hands, I felt relieved, but never had I been so nervous on what should be two of the easiest points you will ever get.