Maryland Trounces #6 Michigan State, 80-62

The Terps took it to Michigan State.  Boy, did they ever.  Tonight’s victory was a season defining triumph. It was Gary Williams at his best.  No one gave the Terps a chance.  Most Soup readers thought that Maryland had a chance if everything fell our way.

I’d say when Dave Neal SCORES 17 POINTS that everything is falling your way.  Sure, critics will say that the Spartans got themselves into trouble.  Their bigs got into foul trouble and they couldn’t hit free throws.  I don’t care.  Maryland played a fantastic game.

The committed only 10 turnovers and four players scored 13 points or more.  That is balance.  They held their own in rebounding and nabbed 8 steals.

Sean Mosley played a great game and did all of the little things.  How about that steal off of a Mich St. offensive rebound followed by a 60 foot pass for a Bowie layup?

Every Terp hit the glass tonight.  Eric Hayes led the team with 6 rebounds.  Eric Hayes!!

I think we can answer the question about the importance of solid guard play in college basketball.  Vasquez and Hayes are playing with the maturity  needed to lead a team into the NCAAs.  Pundits look at the Terps roster and see no inside play.  What they missed is one of the deepest and talented backcourts in the country.

The Terps will go as far as their guards can take them.  Right now, their ceiling is being recalibrated.  We know their are flaws and Maryland will be tested again in less than 24 hours.

This is a deep tournament and Maryland will have to do it all again tomorrow.  Sitting at 4-0; Maryland is position to acheive a Top 25 ranking with another victory in Orlando.  I’m not prepared to contemplate beyond that.  I am going to savor every minute of this one.

Go Terps!

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Five Football Games Left

Can anyone figure this team out? Going back to last season, the Terps have won five straight contests against ranked opponents. They have also lost to Middle Tennessee State in that time.

At 5-2, the Terps are still positioned incredibly well to have a successful season. However, if history is any kind of indicator; being positioned well is exactly when the wheels start to come off for the Terps. For evidence, one need look no further than the UVA loss three weeks ago (Yes, I realize that UVA beating UNC this weekend means that UVA might not be that bad).

Nevertheless, if the shutout against Wake is going to serve as the spark to a spectacular finish, then the Terps will need to break with history.

There can be no more letdowns. The Terps have homecoming this coming week against NC State. The Wolfpack have played horribly (except for the win East Carolina). Maryland should kill them and get to 6-2. Note, the most important word in the previous sentence is “should”. With this team, are you willing to say that they will win for sure?

How many times in a season can a team get caught sleeping on an opponent? The Terps have done it twice (both times on the road). If they can’t beat NC State, then they are truly lost.

I believe that the domination of this past weekend vs. Wake was a turning point. They destroyed a Top 25 team. Maryland’s other big wins have not been so convincing. If indeed we have seen the turning point, then the Terps will still need to demonstrate their superiority against the ACC’s upper echelon.

The season ends with games at Va Tech (Thu. Night), followed by home games vs. FSU and UNC. The season ends at BC. None of those games will be easy but they will all be winnable. If Maryland has turned the corner; then they will win three of the final four. If not it’s another trip to the Emerald Bowl.

Jekyll Shows Up; Terps Rout Wake

Ah, how nice was it to see the good Terps again. We sure did miss you guys. Here’s hoping you stick around for a while this time!

I have to say, what a performance by the entire team on Saturday as Maryland dominated Wake 26-0. This was a total team effort and the first time all season the team has played a complete game. I think we need to call out the team every week if that’s what gets them to play this way.

Let’s start with the defense. Wow. Hey Chris Cosh, that is how you coordinate! The Terps put pressure on Riley Skinner all day long and the defensive line had perhaps the best game I can remember. They swarmed to the ball all day. Sure, the receivers dropped some passes early on, but there are always going to be those kinds of mistakes. The offense put the D in some tough situations early on, but they were able to force FG attempts and that was huge. At one point, Wake went 6 possessions without getting into Maryland territory. The Terps tackled extremely well and here’s hoping they can play that physical in the coming weeks. Wake hadn’t been shutout in 10 years! Cosh, you are off the hook once again, but PLEASE LET’S SEE SOME CONSISTENCY.

Next up, the offense. Da’Rel Scott had a brutal first half with 3 fumbles (2 lost), but threw a great ball to Darrius Heyward-Bey on a halfback option and ran the ball okay the rest of the way. Interesting offensive gameplan letting Chris Turner throw over 40 times, but it worked. Turner was really good and in control the whole game. Oh, and they decided to get Heyward-Bey involved. What a concept! The guy caught 11 passes and we won. Hmmm.

Kudos really have to go out to the offensive line. The offense would not have been able to throw the ball so much if the O-line did not protect. They played physical as well and opened up some nice running lanes too. The O-line had its best game by far. Davin Meggett had some nice runs and he should be on the field more as well. I would love to see a backfield with Portis, Scott and Meggett for a couple of option plays. Who do you run to! Are you reading this Franklin!

More praise to our reborn kicker Obi. The guy is money right now. Even when they don’t look great, they go through. Great job Obi getting your confidence back and those kicks in the first half and early in the second half were bigtime.

So here we are. 5-2, 2-1 in the ACC. Will we be ranked? Maybe. Do we deserve to be ranked? I say not quite yet. I say they must prove they can play well in back to back weeks and if they come out next week against NC State at home for homecoming and whoop em, then we’ll be deserving. So let’s enjoy this for about a day and start thinking about NC State. In fact, we should put a number by NC State so the Terps think they are a ranked team.

Go Terps! We are proud of you today. The ACC is wide open and this could be a special season if they really really want it!

Terps Ranked #26 in Latest AP Poll

Can you believe that?  Just three weeks after getting embarrassed by Middle Tennessee State; the Terps have risen to elite status.  Sure, they are not in the Top 25 yet, but the writing is on the wall.  Not only that, but the Terps seem to be playing their best football in years.  I guess that is what a competent QB will do for you.

Both the defense and the offense played at a peak level in one of the most hostile environments in the country during the 2nd half on Saturday.  At 4-1, the Terps have positioned themselves for a special October and November.

Back in July, I predicted that at this point in the season, the Terps would be 4-1. Of course, how exactly they got to 4-1 was beyond my predictive abilities. No matter.  The Terps face three winnable contests as we look ahead on the schedule.  A road game against a pathetic UVA (the lost to Duke!); then home games against suddenly vulnerable Wake Forest (a home loss to Navy?); and NC State.

You don’t need to be Steven Hawking to figure out that the Terps could be sitting at 7-1three weeks hence.  Now of course, we don’t want the team or the coaches getting ahead themselves (they are focused on UVA); but I am neither and I will look ahead.  7-1 would be incredible.  The schedule really starts to get tough after that as they close the year out with Va Tech, UNC, FSU, and BC (is there anything worse than an ACC school going up to Massachussetts in late November?).  Any thing can happen, but a 2-2 finish and the Terps are sitting at 9 wins with a realistic shot at the ACC title depending on how everything shakes out.

As juicy as that feels; it wouldn’t be Maryland if there wasn’t a dark lining to the silver cloud.  How can you avoid thinking about what would have been if the Fridge had started the season with Chris Turner–as everyone else in the entire state of Maryland had wanted.  The Terps would likely be 5-0 (Yes, I realize Turner started the MTSU game, but he was rusty and I’m sure if he had been named number 1 in early August; the Terps would have won that game.)

5-0 and the Terps are in rarified air.  We would likely be in the Top 20 and if 8-0 came to pass; they would have been in the BCS conversation.  Of course it is fancy and no one in their right mind would expect the Terps to hang with USCs and LSUs of the world.  However, being in that conversation; albeit for only a week or two, would have meant so much to the program, its fans, and alumni.

Hopefully, the Fridge has learned his lesson.  Chris Turner is the man now and he starts the rest of his career.

Terps Adjust, Beat Clemson!!!!

Wow.

I’m nearly speechless. For anyone who watched this team play in the first half, we had no business to be on the same field as Clemson. They ran it down our throats all day long in the first half. It was men against boys. The offense shot itself in the foot and settled for field goals.

But then…

It all turned around!

Chris Cosh has gotten his fair share of grief since he’s been running the defense, but he deserves all the credit for this win. Cosh made the necessary adjustments at the half and the defense took over the game, shutting the Tigers out and getting the offense back into the game emotionally.

The offense still needs work, but Darrius Heyward-Bey’s 76 yard reverse run woke everybody up as well. The team couldn’t play any worse in the first, yet was down just 11 points. That score in the 3rd quarter made the guys in white believe and this resurgent team just took over and came up with a huge, huge win.

Credit also needs to be given to Danny Oquendo. He came up with some huge catches and held onto the ball after some big hits. To have a secondary receiver make plays is a key to making this offense go. Great game Danny!

This team reminds me of the 2006 Terps. They never looked pretty, but somehow they won games. This was one of those games. Did they deserve to win? Hell yeah, but it was not pretty!

We need to give credit where credit is due. A lot of us (myself included) were ready to run the Fridge out of town after the loss to Middle Tennessee, but I want be the first to come out and say I was wrong. Sure, they have a maddening team sometimes that doesn’t play up to its potential, but the Fridge and his coaching staff deserve a ton of credit in how they have been able to get these kids to play hard and redeem themselves against Cal and now Clemson. This victory was even bigger than Cal because it was a road game and it was an ACC game. This should do wonders for the team’s confidence. Now they have to take the next step and go on the road against a pitiful Virginia team and pound them.

I’ll repeat what I said after Cal. The Middle Tennessee game was horrible, but this win over Clemson was a bigger win than that game was a brutal loss. Once again, the Terps will be seen all over ESPN for the rest of the day. They’ll be on the bottom line scoreboard and highlights a plenty for the rest of the day. You can’t buy that kind of press. This team may now be ranked in some polls, so it’s time for them to realize they can be buried again with one loss to UVA. Let’s go out there and make a run for the conference title. They’ve proven they can do it, now go do it!

Startin To Come Together

It was a special night at Comcast Center. Not just because the Terps played an inspired second half and ran away from NC State. It was a nice University of Maryland Class of 1996/97 reunion. Jeremy, myself, and many others who spent 4+ years in Student Section, Row 3 of Cole Field house were watching the Terps live, in person, all together, for the first time in nearly 12 years. It was fantastic.

So was the play of James (you can call me Jim) Gist and my man Grievis Vasquez. Okay, he hasn’t always been MY man, and he still makes really bad decisions at times, but you can’t argue with a team record-tying 15 assists and being one rebound away from a triple double. Gist was unstoppable. The comparison to Joe Smith was accurate in this game. He was the go-to guy and he didn’t disappoint. Well, except for the one airball, but when you pour in 30, you are allowed one bad shot!

Early on, who would have thought we were going to be watching two players have career nights. Here’s Jeremy’s quotes:

2:30 into the game: “I can’t believe we are going to lose to NC State”

5:00 into the game: “I think we are going to win this one.”

8:00 into the game: “We haven’t looked this bad since December”

(you get the idea).

5:00 into the 2nd half: “We are going to beat Duke this week.”

10:00 into the 2nd half: “We are definitely going to the Sweet 16”

Boy did I miss the back and forth from our group. Anyway, you gotta give this team a lot of credit. To finish the first half strong, then come out and score 12 straight points early in the 2nd and blow the roof off the place showed a lot of heart. They didn’t have this heart 6 weeks ago. This team does have a chance to go to the Sweet 16, but then again, if they stop playing smart, they could end up 8-8 in the conference. I’m betting they get that magic 10 games and make the tournament.

We should definitely get some votes in the polls this week and if they are able to upset Duke, and not have a letdown next weekend, they can get themselves in the poll. But that’s not the most important thing. This team needs to continue to get better, continue to believe in themselves and gain confidence.

Vasquez has shown he can learn (most of the time). Gist has stepped up and could end up sneaking into the late first round of the NBA draft. Osby seems to have worn himself out a bit in the past week or two and you can see that Gary is trying hard to give him more rest. But Boom was there early in the second half to set the tone and the rest of the team fed of his emotion. Landon Milbourne continues to show signs of getting better and better. His defense is excellent and he’s hitting some big shots as well as throwing down some big time dunks. He still makes some dumb plays, but remember this is really his first real year playing college ball. Eric Hayes hit some big shots and is developing a mid-range game that is essential to our offenses success.

As for the bench. Tucker and Bowie were solid and even Dupree got in there and did not embarrass himself. Like I said, this team is really coming together and they have a legitimate shot this week at Duke. But after getting this game against the Wolfpack, they are 6-3 in the conference and the game at Cameron is like playing with house money. They can come in loose knowing a win is not essential. They can be relaxed and have fun and perhaps they can beat the rat-faced man and his crew.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, so it wasn’t USA 4, USSR 3 from the 1980 Olympics, but beating #1 UNC at the Dean Dome is one of the all-time great wins in Maryland history. This from the team that was justifiably ridiculed by Billy Packer just four nights ago? Impossible!

What happened today is why we love sports. To quote the greatest sports movie ever made, Hoosiers, “And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it. And it struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground. Amen.” There were about 15 people who thought Maryland could win this game: Gary, the coaches, and the players. That’s it. No one gave them a chance, not even their fans (read: me). But that is Gary Williams at his best. The ultimate underdog.

The winning sequence couldn’t have been more improbable: James Gist throws an entry pass to Bambale Osby who gathers himself for a difficult lay in which he completes without traveling. Amazing!

Of course, the officials were determined to give Carolina every opportunity to pull this one out. Carolina knocked the ball out of bounds with 10 seconds left and Maryland up two. Game over right? Nope. Still Carolina ball. Was there a Maryland fan anywhere in the world who wasn’t throwing something or screaming obscenities after that call? It was epic in its atrociousness. Vintage Karl Hess. But in the end, our boys prevailed.

The Terps apparently now own the Dean Dome. Has there been a peskier visiting opponent for UNC over the last 24 years? Len Bias dealt Carolina their first ever loss in the building. In my only trip down there in 1996, Johnny Rhodes and the boys beat them. Now, we upset them as 18-point underdogs! I’m sure the Terps overall record in the Dean Dome is still under .500, but it is definitely better than one would think and probably better than any other school in the ACC.

My favorite non-game moment from today came from the footage of the Cameron Crazies going nuts after Maryland completed the upset. What a bunch of morons! As we all know, a Maryland win can completely rejuvenate this team. With Duke next on the Terps docket, one has to think that the Blue Devils will now have their hands full next Sunday. Yet there they were, cheering in full throat. God, I hate them.

Now, back to some reflections on today’s historic win. If you scroll down to the post from this morning, you will see my recipe for a Terps upset. Let’s review:

  1. The Terps need to own the glass. (Didn’t happen. UNC outrebounded MD 46-38
  2. The Terps need to record 8-10 blocks. (Didn’t happen. MD had only 5 blocks)
  3. Greivis must play under control and commit no more than 4 turnovers (Check*. Even though he had 6 TO’s and he took 3 -4 inexcusable shots, Greivis only committed 1 TO in the second half and he stepped up down the stretch when it counted. I am giving myself a “check mark” with an asterisk on this one.)
  4. Terps must hit 6 three pointers. (Check. With Milbourne surprisingly contributing two)
  5. Gist must score 25+ points. (Check*. Technically, it was 22 points, but Gis was all that and then some today. James played the best game of his young life and Maryland needed every single bit of it. Every time that Maryland needed a bucket, Mr. Gist delivered.

So with my liberal scoring, I was correct with 3 of the 5 “needs” that Maryland had to have to record the upset. But the question remains, how did the Terps win without dominating defensively? The answer is that Maryland scored more points today than they have in every game this year except for the laugher against Morgan State. Where did all of this offense come from? I’ll tell you in the form of the prettiest two stats I have seen all year:

  • 20 assists
  • 10 turnovers

In the other words, “the best game Maryland has played all year”. Vasquez had five turnovers in the first half alone. That means that without taking a look at the first half stats, at most, Maryland committed only five turnovers during the entire second half. Simply put, Maryland played smart for 40 minutes for the first time all year.

Our young Terps had many opportunities to cave in under the pressure tonight. For me, the most salient moment– the moment when I knew we would be in it until the last second, occurred with about 11 minutes left. UNC began to score in bunches, and the Terps actually went toe-to-toe with them for a few possessions. As the scoring spurt continued, UNC started getting the best of the frenetic pace.

Up four, Eric Hayes shot a three, and the ball was 90% in the hole and somehow, it rimmed out. UNC got the ball and gave it to Ellington who immediately hit a three. A six-point turnaround and Maryland’s lead had been trimmed to one. The entire stadium thought that Carolina was about to go on a run and put the game away.

What ensued were the defining moments of the game, and perhaps the Terps season. How would the Terps respond? After the timeout, the Terps went down to Gist (after moving the ball around the perimeter) and he scored. It was a tough shot, but he took the shot within the flow of the offense. Over the next few minutes of play, the Terps actually extended the lead. Maryland was not going away.

When the post script is written on the 2007-08 season, it could be that the sequence I just described propelled the Terps toward a memorable February and March. The road ahead is not easy, but with a win like today’s, anything seems possible.

As Wheels noted in his comments, I’ll be convinced if the Terps are able to play consistently through the Duke game and into the UVa and GT contests. But it is too early to think about that now. The Terps have the week off before the hated Blue Devils come to town. That should be enough to keep the boys riding high until next Sunday night.

One final anecdote: Maryland came into today’s game ranked #122 in the RPI. What do you think a road win vs. the RPI #2 team will do to those rankings? For the first time all year, I actually be inclined to check when the new rankings come out.

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