The whistles got a hefty workout at Comcast Center on Saturday night; 49 fouls were called between the Maryland men’s basketball team and visiting Pittsburgh. The two sides combined for 77 free throws, which turned the up-tempo action into a start-and-stop affair dominated by the old-fashioned kind of tweeting.
The visiting Panthers, in particular, routinely benefit from these types of games. They lead the ACC in free-throw rate, a simple measurement calculated by dividing field-goal attempts by free-throw attempts. Not coincidentally, they made 32 of 47 free throws last weekend in an 83-79 victory.
The Terrapins, on the other hand, rank 14th out of 15 ACC teams in defensive free throw rate, meaning they send opposing teams to the line at a pretty rapid clip, and the 29 fouls committed against Pittsburgh were their highest total under Coach Mark Turgeon. In fact, no Turgeon team had been whistled for that many fouls since Nov. 12, 2010, the first game of his final season with Texas A&M.
“They shot way too many free throws for my liking, but that goes back to us playing better on defense, knowing situations like we can’t foul when the shot clock is going down,” guard Dez Wells said later. “That’s something an immature team does and that’s not us.”
On an individual level, both Wells and Jake Layman each commit fewer than three fouls per 40 minutes, but Maryland’s four post players – Shaq Cleare (6.3 per 40), Charles Mitchell (5.9), Damonte Dodd (6.5) and Jon Graham (4.6) – all foul at fairly high rates. So, in this week’s chart-heavy film review, a look at Maryland’s fouls against Pittsburgh:
Let’s begin with some overall graphics, with “garbage time” loosely defined as intentional fouling toward the game’s end.
Clearly – and fancy Excel pie charts weren’t needed to show this – the Terps fouled Pittsburgh in the act of shooting a lot of times. The second chart reveals something more detrimental: An overwhelming majority of Maryland’s fouls either ended offensive possessions (13.8 percent) or gave Pittsburgh the chance for free points (82.8 percent). Basically, only one Terps foul didn’t result in a change of possession or points.
“Sometimes we have some pretty veteran guys on the floor,” Turgeon said on Monday’s ACC coaches teleconference. “Just not every good decision-making sometimes. Sometimes we’re not trying to foul and we do. Give Pitt credit. They were aggressive. They got it spread out a little bit. Sometimes you’re a half-step slow defensively. You get behind and you foul. That had a little bit to do with it too.”
Some GIFs to demonstrate:
Wells has been better at curbing his enthusiasm on shot fakes, but here a simple one from guard Lamar Patterson sends him flying toward the sideline. Even if Wells jumped straight up instead of out, he would have been in a much better position to land and recover. As it is, he left Mitchell hanging out to dry.
“I think some of it was us and some of it was then,” Turgeon said. “We had some really silly fouls, three in the backcourt 90 feet from the basket, then late in the game we fouled because we were trying to come back. That adds fouls at the end of the game. They’re an aggressive team.”
Of course, the game wasn’t without its bad calls. Here, for instance, Patterson sticks his leg out and draws contact from Nick Faust, a sneaky move that was awarded with three free throws.
Late in the first half, as Pittsburgh opened up a sizable lead, Cameron Wright grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast without much imposition. Both Roddy Peters and Layman are caught flat-footed, and Graham fouls at the rim.
So was Wells correct when he spoke of fouling late in the shot clock? Just two of Maryland’s shooting fouls came in the final nine seconds of the shot clock, and the majority (9 of 14) came less than halfway into the possession.
And here is the shot distribution of all the shooting fouls drawn by Pittsburgh. The Panthers did a tremendous job reaching the paint, and much of that can be traced back to the dynamism of Patterson (28 points, 12 for 14 on free throws), but Maryland could have been much better at sliding and cutting off penetration lanes.
Lastly, a word on moving screens. All four the Terps set came in the first half and by a bevy of players. The GIFs are embedded below, but a common thread runs through them. Cleare got whistled for sliding too late, Graham weirdly hip-bumped a defender, Mitchell threw an elbow and Dodd pushed off into his roll. Each time, the post players tried to make a move too soon or tried to clip a defender at the last moment, instead of standing still.
“We’ve got to become a better screening team,” Turgeon said. “That’s pretty obvious.”