Sunday, March 1, 2009

Maryland Secures a Crucial Road Win in Raleigh

It might not have been pretty, but the Terrapins avoided a dangerous trap today by defeating the NC State Wolfpack 71-60 in Raleigh. The Terps were in command early in the first half, largely on the sloppy and uninspired play of the Wolfpack. However, NC State rallied back to take the lead in the second half before Greivis Vazquez seemed to take over the game and clinch the game for the Terps. NC State, regardless of what the final score might show, attacked Maryland straight where it hurt and nearly pulled off the win because of it. NC State focused in on dominating the paint, as evidenced by the 29-22 rebounding edge along with Landon Milbourne fouling out of the game. Luckily for the Terps, NC State turned the ball over regularly and Maryland rarely returned the favor.

So, bigger picture: why did Maryland win this game? Maryland has toughness. I've talked about it on this blog before and I'll keep saying it; this is the toughest Maryland team that I can remember. They are minimizing mistakes and, unlike earlier in the season, understand how to use what size they have. Players like Dave Neal, Sean Mosley, and Landon Milbourne are perfect examples of how scrappy this Terrapin team is on the boards, and it's amazing to see how much they can do against larger opponents down low. Sure, they'll get knocked down, commit fouls and the like, but if there's any loose ball on the floor my money is on the Terp. Gary Williams has a team with a chip on its collective shoulder, and he has used that to his team's advantage.

The Maryland Terrapins are in the right place to get to the NCAA Tournament from here. The Terps now stand at 18-10 overall (7-7 ACC), with two difficult but winnable games left. If the Terps sweep both of their games by defeating Wake Forest at home on Tuesday and winning at Virginia on Saturday, they are almost guaranteed an invite to the Tournament. If the Terps split these two games, expect the Terps to need to make a splash in the ACC Tournament to get over the hump. Either way, Maryland has to like their prospects at this part of the season.

It is amazing to see how far this team has come over the past several weeks. These players were dismissed as being too small and untalented, Gary Williams was criticised as being a has-been coach who can't recruit, and this whole program was branded as an embarassment. Now the Terps are making a run; instead of hearing those pundits make concessions, we don't hear those pundits saying anything. I for one will say that this team might not win a championship, but they're a damn good basketball team.

(Photo Credit: Ethan Hyman/McClatchy-Tribune)

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