I’ve been slacking off on these reviews. Thursday’s been a little busy with the podcast recording, and Monday…well it’s tough enough to recount the mundane, but when its combined with a terribly deflating loss it borders on impossible. So I’ll just mash both games together and give three thoughts on what happened in the past week. Fortunately, there were more than a few common threads that ran through both games such as:
Half Court/Half Amazing
The biggest positive of the last week – and it’s not even close – has been the half court defense. Miami’s field goal percentage was nearly 10% lower against the Terps than their season percentage. North Carolina State – who lead the country in team field goal percentage going into last night (52.5%) – shot a season worst 31.1% from the floor, and only scored 16 points in the first half. And the craziest part about those 16 points is that they were an accurate representation. The Wolfpack weren’t lipping out gimme putts, they were just consistently forced into low percentage shots by an extremely cohesive Terps defense.
C.J. Leslie was at a rolling boil coming into this game, and Alex Len did an otherworldly job of turning off the burner and generally obstructing the flow of Mark Gottfried’s offense. There are negatives – SO MANY NEGATIVES – to be taken from these past two games. But before I dig into that pile of shit, it should be noted that a great defense like Maryland has is like disaster insurance. Bad things may happen the rest of the year, but the Terps will keep the doors from getting blown off with that D.
The Point Guard Mess
No creative name here, the threat level just keeps rising at the point guard position. Pe’Shon was 3rd on the team with 9 shots against NC State, and I really want to say that he shouldn’t be so trigger-happy, but there was no way around it. At least 4 of those shots were the Wolfpack seeing Pe’Shon alone on the perimeter, and just saying “this is our best option for the possession.” He took some wide-open shots, and with the exception of one three pointer, missed all of them (his other two buckets were layups). Because he can’t keep defenses honest with his jumper, they’re free to clog the passing lanes and it reflected in his lack of production as a passer (he had three assists combined in the last two games). To his credit, Howard was terrific on defense Wednesday, something Seth Allen hasn’t really been able to say all season.
With every game that goes by, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Seth Allen may be the best all-around scorer on this team. Which would be great…except that’s not where he’s needed right now. Similar to Faust last year, Allen is totally miscast as a point guard and the increased difficulty of ACC play has really exposed that issue. In the last 4 games, Allen has 3 assists against 10 turnovers. At the end of the game, you want him on the floor to make that big three like he did in the last few minutes on Wednesday. You just don’t want him passing.
I deemed Nick Faust a “warm body” possibility at point guard a few weeks ago. Well, I’m ready to upgrade him past “pulse having American” to legitimate point guard possibility. I thought the best passing in the Miami game came from him, and I thought he looked calm and composed being the primary ball handler against NC State. Considering Faust has slipped under the 30% mark from downtown again, him being a point guard provides the added benefit of him looking for a three less, and look at going to the basket (which he’s good doing) more.
Problems In Transition
When you watch an experienced team in transition, it’s almost predatory. Like watching a few lionesses strategically kill off a straggler. When the ’09-’10 Terps got on the break, they would pick apart the defense with one or two precision passes and the buckets were uncontested. In short, they made fast breaks just as easy as they should be.
This team makes them harder. Obviously not by any fault of their own, but they don’t have that open court ESP that comes with playing together. In fact, it’s almost like the opposite: everyone’s on different wavelengths in terms of where the ball should go. That chemistry will develop, but they’re behind where they should be right now. There were at least 6 or 7 baskets on Wednesday that should have been easy layups or dunks, but the players just over thought the situation and completely flubbed them.
On the other end, the transition defense is lagging way behind where the half court is. Miami’s Kenny Kadji got a lot of his open looks from three in transition, and NC State made their second half comeback by pushing the pace after defensive rebounds and beating the Terps down the floor. Saturday’s game at UNC will feature an opponent that plays at a pace usually reserved for fighter jets or razor names, so this could be a glaring weakness.
Patrick Guthrie is a University of Maryland alumnus and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter: @patguth321