Terps Escape Against Wake, 74-70

Why is it that I feel the same after tonight’s win as I did after the first Wake game? If you’ll remember, the Terps and Deacons played a turnover and foul filled contest that left fans of both teams demoralized. If you go back to my post (entitled “When Winning Feels Like Losing”) and comments from that game, you will remember what I’m talking about. Tonight is different, we are all smiles, but I still see much to be concerned about.

For the third straight game, Maryland could not find the bucket in the last 8 minutes. It cost us W’s against Va Tech and Miami and should have cost us tonight (Wake missed plenty of open looks). A disturbing trend, our Terps need to figure out how to score down the stretch. Watching Hayes and Vasquez chuck up threes when the Terps had a commanding lead was maddening. Vasquez owned Teague on the low block all night. Not going there down the stretch bordered on a criminal act!

Milbourne was a no-show tonight and so was Osby. Osby was so bad that I actually think something was physically wrong with him. He didn’t start the second half and lacked his typical emotion. Between the Milbourne, Hayes, and Osby one of them needs to be a scorer each game. Tonight, none of them stepped up in a significant way (Hayes’ scoring was negated by his turnovers and 0 assists. Yes, that is right. 0 assists). Somehow the Terps still won.

Maryland was willed to victory tonight by our leaders. Jim Gist in particular, refused to lose. Why can’t he play with this attitude every night? This I will never know, but suffice it to say that we need another big performance from him against Clemson. Combined with Vasquez they totaled 55 of Maryland’s 74 points. I’m no math major but that is too much. We need production from other players.

The season now rides on the Clemson game. To date, Maryland has exactly one win against the RPI Top 50. Sunday night’s game represents Maryland’s last chance in the regular season to improve on that stat. That should provide us with the necessary motivation. If the noise emanating out of the Comcast Center is not registering on the Richter Scale on Sunday night, then the Terps don’t deserve to win.

Of course, if we go back to the first Wake game, Maryland followed that lackluster win with its most inspiring performance of the year: beating UNC. Here’s hoping they play with similar fire on Sunday. After all, the season only depends on it.

Finally, a little housekeeping. Turtle Soup is temporarily relocating to Buenos Aires. Yes, for the next 9 days, I will be in sunny South America with Mrs. Soup. Rest assured, I will still follow the Clemson game. Turtle Soup will still have regular posts, so please continue to make us your gameday headquarters.

Buenos dias, mis comprades. Vamos Terps!

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Maryland – Wake Thread

Welcome to the postseason, ladies and gentlemen.

There is no room for error, the Terps need to start playing their best ball of the season tonight. For you out of towners, it appears that the game will be broadcast on channelsufing.net.

Enjoy the game wherever you are and if the tide is turning against us, try to have a nerf ball or some other unbreakable object nearby. No use tossing out something valuable while you express your frustration.

Why I am a Terp Fan

I cannot recall ever having more difficulty writing a column about the Terps. A natural pessimist, I am feeling particularly pessimistic. These last two defeats have left me snake bitten.

However, our Terps are not in unchartered territory. Over the years, we have seen Maryland succeed against amazing odds. We have also seen them fall apart at the seams. This season has provided examples of both. Yet, with three games to go, here we are. The UNC win and subsequent wins are a distant memory. The Terps cannot afford to lose another regular season game.

The Terps entered desperation mode after the final buzzer sounded on Saturday. The loss to Miami has placed Maryland’s season in peril. As Terp fans, this terrain is all too familiar. In times like this, frustration builds to almost intolerable levels. After reading through some of the comments on this site, I can tell these recent losses and the Terps’ overall regression can call one’s loyalty and fanhood in to question.

It begs the question, why do we root so hard? Why does every loss feel so devastating and every win, so exhilarating? I guess the short answer is that there is no answer. Fans live and die by the Terps for different reasons.

If you are an Alumnus or Maryland native, being a Terp fan is a birthright. The Baltimore/DC area does not lack for sports teams. We have the Ravens, Redskins, Orioles, Nationals, Wizards and Caps, but the Terps have the power to unite the region like no other team. EVERYONE in Maryland cheers for the Terps.

There aren’t many schools on the college landscape that have such a captive audience. Kentucky has Louisville. Wisconsin has Marquette. In fact, the only schools with any college hoops relevance that have equal sway over their entire state are UConn, Arkansas, and LSU. Maryland is a bigger state than all three of them, so it is safe to say that the Terps indeed have a unique relationship with the Free State.

For me it goes a little deeper. Maryland has an ethos that I connect with on a deep level. Our Terps have been cast as permanent underdogs. Over the last 35 years no team in the country has gone toe-to-toe with two of the most elite programs in the country (Duke and UNC) and had as much success.

Maryland has been battling the two biggest and baddest bullies on the block and more or less held is own. Yet, no one nationally seems to notice. Haven’t we all felt undervalued and under appreciated at some point in our lives?

To further the point, it has been well established that the ACC has historically been the best conference in the nation. Duke and UNC have collected a combined six NCAA titles since 1982. Put another way, either Duke or UNC won the National title every four years. No other conference has two schools with such undeniable success.

Yet Maryland trudges along AND manages to win. Look at all this program has survived in the last 25 years. Len Bias’ tragic death nearly destroyed the athletic program ,and just as the program was starting to go beyond his death; the NCAA put the school on probation and handed them a ridiculous two-year post season and television ban. Can you imagine a school getting a similar penalty today for giving a recruit a ride to class?

Through it all Maryland has remained competitive. Dogged for years as a perpetual bridesmaid (all those sweet sixteens and top 10 finishes) without ever getting its moment in the sun. Finally redemption came and it felt like no other. No sports moment will ever compare to the way I felt as the seconds ticked down in Atlanta in 2002.

Under appreciated and unjustly treated (I haven’t even touched on the officiating), our Terps have been cast as permanent underdogs when we look upon the giants of the ACC. Some say that America loves an underdog, but I don’t get that feeling about the Terps. I’ve lived in California and Illinois and can count on one hand the number of times I have seen Terp gear in stores. I feel like Maryland basketball is our little secret.

Not being a household name may hurt us in recruiting, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Maryland is “our thing” (note: in Italian, “our thing” means something entirely different). It would feel tainted if I saw some random kid from the North Chicago suburbs rooting for Maryland.

I hope my little pep talk has helped. Terp Nation needs a big hug right now. Let’s hope that Gary Williams, who embodies this underdog ethos, can summon some of the old magic and find the answers to the problems that the last two losses have exposed.

Relevance

First of all, nobody is ever banned from this site. We want all Terp fans to have their say. I’m just saying, and I appreciate all those who backed me up, that we don’t want to hear how proud you are to be Terp fan a week/month/year after you say you are quitting on the program. The Terps are relevant in college basketball. Prove it, you might say? Okay, this is a 100% true story:

After the game on Saturday, I headed to a mall in Auburn Hills, Michigan with my wife and son. We were in Neiman Marcus and were looking at some of the children’s clothes. There was a rack with t-shirts of 4 colleges. Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, and… Maryland. Damn right. Don’t say we aren’t relevant. And yes, of course, we bought one of them!

Maryland is a well known successful program in almost all sports and is recognized all over the country. Perhaps not as much as some others, but when was the last time you saw a Tennessee shirt sitting in a store in the midwest. We have a national championship within the past 10 years. Not many can say that. We have the most successful record against the country’s most hated team… Duke. We have more wins over #1 ranked teams than most schools out there. Of course, we are frustrated that we aren’t what some may call “elite”, but there aren’t many programs I’d trade with.

Good Terps vs. Bad Terps

Today, the Terps will be fighting a battle against themselves. At stake is the entire 2007-08 season. That’s it. Everything else is verbal masterbation.

For my own health and sanity, I have avoided writing about, discussing, or dissecting Wednesday night’s loss. I am afraid that Mr. Hyde (aka Bad Terps) has re-emerged. I will find out along with the rest of Terp Nation if my fears have come true later this afternoon.

Strengths & Weaknesses

Okay, now that we’ve had nearly 24 hours to vent, analyze, etc., I was asked to write a strengths and weaknesses column for Roster Magazine. First, though, it’s been interesting reading the comments on Wednesday night’s game. There was a lot of blame and not too much praise going on. “Vazquez and Osby were good, the rest of the team stunk it up” pretty much sums up the game. In my opinion, it’s all about confidence. Despite falling behind, Virginia Tech had confidence that they could come back and win because they did so 6 weeks ago. On the flip side, the Terps were tight at times because most of the players lacked confidence. They were not aggressive. They were passive. They played scared. They WERE scared to blow it and we all saw what happened. There is still hope for this year. As a buddy mentioned to me earlier, a win over Miami and we are back in control. Miami has a 28 RPI. It won’t be easy, but any team that can beat UNC on the road can beat Miami, especially if they have a ‘we beat Duke letdown’.

Okay, now for those strengths and weaknesses. Please chime in to agree or disagree or add something I may have forgotten.

Strengths

The Inside Game – Bambale Osby and James Gist have been a force in the middle for most of the season. They lead the ACC in blocked shots and they both make it tough for any player to drive to the hoop. They are decent rebounders and have good offensive games. Osby may have only one good move in the post, but he is so strong, it often doesn’t matter. Osby’s free throw shooting has improved greatly this season which means teams are more reluctant to foul him. When aggressive, Gist is a force inside. He’s not always consistent, but when he is focused and not taking his game way outside, the Terps big men are among the best 2 inside guys in the ACC.

Half Court Defense – Every college team has lapses in defensive play, but for the most part, the Terps half court defense is solid. When they fight through screens and play physical inside, it is tough to score on them. Case in point. When the Terps offense disappeared for 8 minutes in the first half against Virginia Tech, they were still ahead when they finally snapped out of it. That was all defense. Most teams are able to take advantage of Maryland when the Terps turn the ball over because they are able to score in transition. When the Terps do not turn the ball over, their defense can win them games.

Greivis Vasquez – When playing smart, he is our team. Vasquez brings the energy and scoring that can turn games around. Case in point, the Florida State game on February 16th. His 3 3-pointers early in the 2nd half turned the game around. He can get other players involved and has the ability to jump start a sluggish offense. Vasquez plays good defense as well and is quick to come up with a steal when the opponent is not careful.

Weaknesses

Turnovers – Maryland could perhaps be the most generous team in college basketball. They turn the ball over time after time after time. They have had some games where they have protected the ball and usually those were fairly easy victories. But the TO’s have turned would-be blowouts into close games and turned close games into losses. If they were smarter with the ball, this team wouldn’t be worrying about having to make a late season run to get into the NCAA tournament.

Bench play – The bench has been a question mark all season because 4 of the 6 guys that have come off the bench this season have been freshmen. These guys could end up being good players, but they are not now. The bench players come in and play like freshmen. Some games they are good, some games they are horrible. Sometimes they are good and horrible within a minute. In order for this team to be successful, the bench has to contribute. They don’t have to do a lot, but they have to be able to give the starters a breather and be able to score.

Greivis Vasquez – Yes, he is a strength and a weakness. Anybody who has watched the Terps this season has seen a guy who looks like an all-american one minute and then throws a horrible pass or takes a horrible shot the next. As much as Vas helps the Terps, he hurts them with dumb play. The problem is, he knows what he is doing is wrong. He says so. But rarely has he had a game where he was smart throughout.

Secret to Success – As they proved by beating UNC in Chapel Hill, Maryland can win against almost anyone. As they proved early in the season to Ohio and American, and recently to Virginia Tech, they can lose to anyone. They must be smart with the ball and work inside first, then out. Vasquez must hit shots and get the others involved as well. They must get something from their bench as well as be aggressive, not timid. They must believe in themselves.

Another big must. If they play a game where the refs won’t let them play physical, they are doomed. Their big men pride themselves on playing physical, but if touch fouls get them into trouble, Maryland does not have the depth to overcome that. They become a jump shooting team and they are not good enough shooters to be successful.

Maryland Disgraces Itself

Maryland blew two separate double-digit leads tonight.

Eric Hayes and James Gist continued their terrible play.

Braxton Dupree is absolutely horrible.

Once Virginia Tech was able to neutralize Vasquez’s dribble penetration, Maryland’s offense disintegrated.

Maryland now has two losses to Virginia Tech and they should have two wins.

The Terps have lost themselves. They have three days to find it or I am afraid that they will back in the NIT.

I’d like to write more, but I don’t have the energy or heart to do it. I’m physically ill.

Miami must be licking their chops.