More than a one-man show
Friday, January 28, 2011
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Virginia did what none of Maryland's previous 13 opponents had been able to do. The Cavaliers met one of their primary objectives. And still, they dropped their fourth decision in five games.
Maryland sophomore forward Jordan Williams did not record a double-double Thursday night at John Paul Jones Arena. In fact, he was a negligible factor in the Terrapins' largest margin of victory in Charlottesville since 1930.
Virginia fell to Maryland, 66-42, not because it could not contain Williams, but because it refused once again to get out of its own way. The Cavaliers (11-9, 2-4 ACC) shot worse than 38 percent from the field (33.3) for the seventh time this season, while allowing the Terrapins to shoot 68 percent from the field in the second half.
When asked afterward which deficiency - offensive or defensive - he was most disappointed in, Virginia Coach Tony Bennett replied: "Both, I think. You didn't even mention the turnovers."
Ah yes, the turnovers. The Cavaliers gave away the ball 15 times Thursday night, a reflection primarily of their inability to stomach the heavy doses of three-quarter court press defense Maryland (13-7, 3-3) threw at them after halftime.
"It's kind of like a junk press," Virginia sophomore guard Jontel Evans said. "They just want to speed you up and get you into the corner so they can trap you. That's what they did tonight. They baited us to where they wanted us to go, and we went there and turned the ball over."
The Terrapins scored 12 points off turnovers to pull away in the second half. Senior guard Adrian Bowie recorded four of Maryland's eight steals in helping his team earn its fourth victory of the season over an opponent with a winning record.
Bowie's defensive showing bolstered his offensive performance (game-high 22 points) and helped the Terrapins overcome a sub-par performance from Williams, who was limited to four points and six rebounds. Williams had registered at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in every Maryland game dating from Nov. 23.
Virginia devoted two and sometimes three defenders to Williams whenever he touched the ball. All week in practice, Virginia coaches implored its guards to "choke" down on Williams whenever he received a pass in the post, and the Cavaliers obliged throughout the game. Williams attempted just five shots and never was able to establish a rhythm.
"It wasn't easy, but we just played hard on him, tried to be on him, like, trap him every time he got the ball, kind of pressure him every time so he can make a mistake," said junior center Assane Sene, who tallied a career-high 15 rebounds and a career-high six turnovers Thursday. "I think we did a really good job on him, but there were some breakdowns on defense. I think that's what really bothered us in the second half."
Bennett said his players simply "lost track of some of their guys" and that poor defensive positioning contributed heavily to Maryland's second-half offensive surge. Terrapins swingman Cliff Tucker and guard Pe'Shon Howard shot a combined 6 for 8 from the field and scored 14 of their combined 22 points after the break.
As for his team's offensive ineptitude, Bennett said there were too many misses from close range. Virginia's scoring output Thursday was its lowest since losing to Duke, 63-41, during the 1998 ACC tournament. Maryland had not defeated the Cavaliers by double digits in Charlottesville since 1975.
"Offensively and defensively we weren't aggressive," senior forward Will Sherrill said. "We didn't attack their press. We were hesitant against their press. We were playing tight. I think, by and large, they just kind of punked us, especially in that second half."
Senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan - Virginia's leading healthy scorer entering the game - shot 3 for 10 from the field and tied for the team high with eight points. Thursday night marked the second time this season that the Cavaliers did not have a player score in double figures.
With a relatively young roster, Virginia was not expected to play well consistently this season. But effort is another matter. Now the Cavaliers have less than 48 hours to address an issue they didn't foresee before playing at Wake Forest.
"I really don't know the reason why we were so flat," Evans said. "There was a lot of energy in the building. I guess they just wanted it more."