Rare is the occasion when Coach Mark Turgeon concedes his Maryland basketball team won’t stop a certain player. But elite scorers such as Virginia Tech guard Erick Green surface only every so often. Green currently ranks second nationally with 24.4 points per game, sixth in free-throw attempts and eighth in offensive win shares.
So how do you solve a problem such as Green?
Simple: You can’t. Green scored at least 21 points in Virginia Tech’s first 12 games this season, shooting less than 42 percent from the field just once. But like BYU did Dec. 29, holding Green to just 12 points on 4 of 17 shooting, the Terrapins can smother Green along the perimeter, forcing contested shots and cutting down on open looks.
“You can’t miss him,” Logan Aronhalt said of Green. “We know their guards are doing the majority of the scoring. We know that if we play great defense, they’ll still score the ball. So we just have to limit their opportunities.”
Defending Green will be a team effort. Pe’Shon Howard most likely will guard Green, simply because the 6-foot-3 guard won’t match up well against Virginia Tech’s bigger, longer wing players. But Dez Wells, Seth Allen and Nick Faust could all see defensive repetitions, to throw Green different looks.
It also means fighting hard over screens, making sure Green can’t penetrate the lane off a high pick-and-roll, and not making silly mistakes that result in bountiful trips to the foul line.
“I don’t think we’re going to stop him,” Turgeon said. “I think he’s going to get his points. We just want him to earn them. We don’t want him to have 30 points on 10 or 11 shots. It comes down to team defense on him. I think multiple guys throughout the game will guard him.
“They have some good players, but we’ll have a game plan. Hopefully the shots he makes will be tough shots. Hopefully we play without fouling and keep him off the foul line. If we can keep him off there, that will be a big thing too.”
Green also ranks first in the ACC with a .306 usage percentage, so he clearly receives the bulk of Virginia Tech’s offensive looks. By and large, he has delivered. Green tops the nation in points produced per game and leads the conference with a 31.8 player efficiency rating, according to sports-reference.com.
The Terps have done a little more film work scouting Virginia Tech than for most of their non-conference opponents, Aronhalt said. Though Jarell Eddie ranks ninth in the ACC with 14.8 points per game, Green is option A, especially in transition.
“We’re just going to switch off, just play our matchups,” Wells said.
In a loss to Maryland on Jan. 8, 2012, Green dropped 18 points in 38 minutes, making just 8 of 21 attempts from the field. In 2010-11, Green averaged 22 points in two games versus the Terps, including an absurd 12-of-16 performance on Jan. 20, 2011 at Comcast Center.
After a rough practice Thursday night, the Terps rebounded with a focused workout Friday morning, and their afternoon shootaround was cancelled. With just three games in the past 23 days, Maryland is well-rested, fresh and excited for the ACC opener.
“Coaches have started to put a little more pressure us, especially in practice, just bringing it every day,” Aronhalt said. “We haven’t had great starts the past two games, so that’s a byproduct of that. Being consistent every day, doing what we need to do to succeed in ACC play. I’m ready to go. I’m excited.”