This was a huge game. One that would have had all us Terp fans salivating all week waiting for you know who on Saturday, if they would have won. Instead, they played one of their worst games of the season, certainly worst home game. UVA came in the hungrier, more motivated team, and it showed.
For the first time I remember, the Terps were out rebounded. There is no stat for hustle, but just watching, you could easily say they were out hustled as well. It couldn’t have been a worse time to throw a clunker in. Every loose ball seemed to wind up in the hands of UVA.
Defensively, you just have to really wonder how UVA scores 80 points. They were hot, but they were hot because the shots were often open and uncontested. Tony Bennet teams are not know for scoring a lot of points. Yesterday they looked like a team ready to make a strong case for the NCAA tournament.
UVA went with a smaller lineup that killed the Terps. It honestly made Alex Len a liability on defense when he was forced to guard, well a guard, on the perimeter. You would think that Maryland should be able to use their size to an advantage, but yesterday, the size was a weakness as Mark Turgeon tried all kinds of 4 and 5 guard sets to try and stay with UVA defensively, and it just didn’t work, no matter who he threw in there. When a team was as hot as UVA you have to adapt in order to try and stop them, instead of going with your supposed strength.
For this team to make a run, they have to start playing better basketball. Actually, they need to start playing smarter basketball. The shot selection was terrible. Early in the clock, off the dribble pull ups from 2 feet inside the arc from players who aren’t know as shooters. Alex Len has got to be quicker with his moves when he gets the ball. By the time he gathers himself the double team is there, and he is 10 feet from the basket. He tries to dribble out of the double team and often finds himself in no mans land. I know he is going to be a very high draft pick, but there are A LOT of holes in his game. A player with his size has to make an impact on both ends game in and game out. Right now, that is not happening. He is too easily forced away from the basket, then gets himself in trouble when he tries to make a move.
The point guard play continues to be a problem. Faust had one of his worst games in a while. I was all for the Faust at the point move, but this year, he is not getting it done. I don’t love Pe’Shon either, but the last two games he has shown signs of improvement on both ends of the floor. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the start against Duke on Saturday.
So here we sit. Feeling pretty bad about our chances, with a huge opportunity to make a statement and get some late momentum. Likely #1 Duke will be here coming off a game against UNC midweek. While the Terps get the entire week to prepare for them. Hopefully this is where things turn around, or else our NCAA tournament hopes will be pushed to next year. Not something I am looking forward to saying. This team is good enough to be a tournament team. Maybe not Sweet 16 good, but they really should be getting there. If Len was the player we all expected him to be and if Faust made any improvement from the way he finished late last season, they should be there with the new depth. However, it just isn’t coming together for them.
Stay tuned, I am sure we will be back on bubble watch at some point, but it starts Saturday. For a school that defines the basketball season by one game, this is where it starts. Beating Duke at home has become THE event on campus, the team needs to take that stand this weekend. It has to be where this season gets turned around, or it may just be a little too late for this group.