If Gary Williams wishes to avoid Ralph Friedgen’s fate, he’s got some coaching to do. As in “stick with a 3-point shooter on defense” and “Inbound the ball with care when the game is on the line” type lessons.
At halftime of the Maryland men’s basketball team’s 79-75 loss to Boston College, Friedgen implored the basketball team’s lethargic student section and late-arriving alumni to come to RFK and support the Maryland football team in its “bowl” game against East Carolina.
He referenced the disrespect shown to his team, arguing that when the team plays on the East Coast, it brings its fans with it. The Terps filled Byrd to less than 75 percent capacity this year. That’s their home turf! Try again Ralph.
The Maryland football team had a fine year, tying for third in the conference and slapping together an 8-4 record. But the attendance has been bad — mostly due to last season’s 2-10 debacle. If the Maryland football team was drunk last year, its fans are hung over this year. Fanbases are slow to turnaround because of fans’ short memories — if last year was bad, they want proof that this year won’t be.
Now Maryland basketball has beaten seven fairly bad teams and lost to four good ones after Corey Raji’s WIDE OPEN 3-pointer ousted the Terps during a then-tied game with 40 seconds left, a game that was once within Maryland’s grasp. The ugly truth is that this year, each successive loss has been to a worse team. First, close losses to No. 4 Pitt and No. 16 Illinois. Then there was last week’s heartbreaking loss to once highly ranked Temple. Now, a loss to BC.
With three games upcoming against the middling trio of NJIT, UNF and Colgate before the ACC slate opens in earnest, Maryland is in a tough spot. This is a team expected to sweep those foes but also ripe for an upset. They should be 10-4 going into Jan. 9’s game with Duke. But this is still a team without a breakout win or a wake-up loss. Duke is the first opportunity for the former; the next few weeks the latter.
This is not a bad basketball team. The Terrapins’ front line of Dino Gregory (14 points, five rebounds and three blocks) and Jordan Williams (27 points, 13 boards!) is now set, Gregory supplying fine work from the elbow and on defense, Williams wielding an array of dunks and post moves, well on his way to being the ACC’s best post player. After that, the rotation is fuzzy.
Gary stuck to his veteran guns on this day, to mixed effect. The 1-3 starting positions manned by Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker and Sean Mosley looked tentative. The primary subs, freshman guards Terrell Stoglin (a terrible 7 of 18 from the field) and Pe’Shon Howard, had the opposite problem, forcing shots or passes that weren’t there. What’s a coach to do?
Bowie, who struggled all day, was a bright spot down the stretch, adding two tough buckets in crunch time and dealing out seven assists to lead all players. But Tucker (2 for 10) is more concerned with shot fakes than taking shots in rhythm, and it cost him dearly, his timing off.
On offense, Mosley could do little right. But his three steals captaining the press made him hard to take out of the game, a key complement to Maryland’s only consistent scoring option: Pushing the ball to Jordan Williams whenever he was within dunk’s length of the hoop.
Down 78-75, the Terps had the ball with 20 seconds left and a chance to tie. I could feel Gary’s frustration when Stoglin diddled around with the ball only to launch a difficult 3-point shot — I’ve been that guy before too Terrell, but that’s on the playground. With so much time left, a quick two by the 75-percent-shooting Williams was clearly the way to go.
Gary distributed 189 of his 200 available minutes between his seven primary players, consistent but perhaps asking too much. Just two of those seven are big men, meaning Jordan Williams played 38 minutes, Gregory 31. Maryland is just too talented not to have other guys scoring.
It is difficult for one player to carry things against a zone defense, and sometimes the play just wasn’t there for Williams. Brilliantly, he hardly forced anything. But when he is double-teamed, that is time for Mosley to cut to the basket, that is the time for Tucker to let his man sag and make him pay from beyond the arc.
There are so many little things obvious to a spectator that the players don’t see. It’s up to Gary and hopefully lots of film to open their eyes. The guys aren’t far from where they want to be, but little mistakes are holding this talented group back. Gary, you don’t want to be begging for attendance next year in Ralph’s court. The only way to avoid that is to lead this team to the tournament. Right now it’s a tall order, but I know you can do it.