A Big Step Forward

12/2/2009 7:13:26 AM It's hard for me to look at the Terps win over Indiana and think all is well and everything is fixed and we are on our way now. Obviously, anyone who watched the first half was ready to throw a brick through their TV. I know Jeremy was.

However, you have to admit, despite the missed lay-ups, missed foul shots, and early turnovers, this was a big step forward for this team because they won a road game against a team from a major conference. Nobody will be confusing Indiana with Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin in the Big Ten, but after what we witnessed in Maui, this was a game the Terps needed to win and it helped that they had to gut it out and make plays at the end. The more experience the Terps get in close games the better when it comes to the ACC season.

While it was an important game to get, there are still major questions surrounding the team as they continue to search for an identity, especially on offense. First though a couple comments regarding the defense.

You gotta hand it to Gary Williams for making the call to switch to a zone defense midway through the first half. It's not a defense that will work against many ACC teams, but Indiana is not a good shooting team for the most part and the zone confused them and got them to take some rushed and bad shots that got us back in the game.

Also, something pointed out to me by longtime reader/friend of the program, Goody. When was the last time one of our inside guys did not go for a pump fake in a game?? I did not see Jordan Williams get faked out once. He held his ground and that's a great sign already for a young guy who has made a big difference inside for us. He will make his mistakes (like missing a layup on a 4-on-1), but he has given us a shot blocking and rebounding presence inside that we lacked last year. Now please work on your free throw shooting!!!

So the defense should continue to keep us in games this season and hopefully the offense will come around. Which brings us to the offense.

Layups, Layups, Layups. Let that be the practice lessons for the rest of the week. Why they hurry those shots is a mystery to me. It's as if they have little confidence in their halfcourt offense that they hurry the shots in transition and end up with those frustrating misses.

The good news is that we got good looks all night long. You have to hope that those shots from close in will start to fall as the team gains more confidence. You really have to look at it as a mental problem. The shots and looks are there, now they have to start knocking them down. I think Sean Mosley and Eric Hayes are clearly our best mid-range shooters and when they started running and getting open on screens they knocked most of those shots down. To have two guys who can do that is huge. They need to keep it up.

I also think this is the longest post we've written in the past 4 years without mentioning Grievis Vasquez. I actually think he is coming around. I'm not sure his offense will ever be consistent this season, but when the game was on the line late, he was calm and composed. He did not take bad shots and did not turn the ball over. Now if we can get him to calm down the rest of the game, he'll be fine and we will all be less stressed.

Finally, we get to the bench play. When Dino Gregory returns, I would expect Jordan Williams to be our 6th man at first. If Gregory plays well, then I think that will likely be the rotation, but then again we will have the luxury of going big against teams like UNC who pounded the hell out of Michigan State last night inside.

I was actually impressed by the play of Choi last night. For the first time, he wasn't running around looking for someone to guard or wrapping his arms around someone in the backcourt. He played above average defense and showed off a nice offensive move that got him to the foul line. He still seems afraid to take outside shots, but perhaps if he makes a few, that can improve the confidence.

As for the guards, I'm quite concerned about next year with Bowie running the show, but there is plenty of time for that next summer and hopefully Bowie's game improves enough that he changes my mind, but we'll see. The guy does some nice things, but you gotta hit those outside shots. He doesn't seem to play with the confidence needed from an experienced guard and dude, hit your free throws. You are a guard. There will be games that will be up to you to close out from the line. Get working on it.

Gary called the decision not to play Cliff Tucker a "coaches decision". Not sure what that means, but I will speculate that Tucker just doesn't seem to be that good of a practice player. Gary is big on practice and I think that's why you see a guy like Choi play over Goins. You see the effort by Choi everytime he's on the floor, good or bad. Perhaps Gary is not seeing the effort in practice from Goins or Tucker. I don't know, but we'd be a much better team if Tucker can get himself on the floor.

All in all, I think we are all thrilled with the win, but this season is far from saved. We can erase the Maui nightmare with a win on Sunday against Villanova, but my confidence is not high for that one. We usually stink up the Verizon Center. Besides that Kansas win back in the day, we have not really impressed anyone in that building (not counting Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2002 tourney).

I think we have a much better chance of winning now that we got the road victory under out belts, but it will be a tall task and our boys will have to play much better from the start or we'll be down 10+ before we know it and have to play catch-up the rest of the way. That's not our game. But at least we've seen a little of what our game is supposed to look like now.
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