Terps getting it only half right

maryland men

December 30, 2008|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,bill.ordine@baltsun.com

For the Maryland men's basketball team, making sure to nail down the supposed easy ones is certainly important. All the Terps have to do is look back to last season when a few so-called early-season gimmes turned into losses and made Maryland's unsuccessful run for an NCAA tournament spot all the more difficult.

However, as the Terps (9-2) take a five-game winning streak into tonight's nonconference home game against Elon (4-4), Maryland does have other objectives on its agenda, such as improving on its half-court offense.

After the Terps' last game, a 72-51 victory over Bryant, coach Gary Williams had some gripes about his team's performance, including lapses in rebounding and intensity.

"That's the battle you fight with players right now to make sure that they understand that even though you might win a game, you might not necessarily be pleased with how you run your half-court offense," Williams said yesterday. "They look at you like, 'We won by 20, what's the problem?' The problem is that we're going to have to be able to run the half-court offense more and more effectively as time goes on."

So far, Maryland has sparkled when it is has been able to speed through the opposition in transition, frequently off its pressure defense. And though Williams doesn't want his team to stop doing what it does well, he's also trying to emphasize that life will change once the Terps move into their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule. The first league game is against Georgia Tech on Jan. 10 at Comcast Center.

"We have a lot of guys who can score in the open court," Maryland junior guard Eric Hayes said yesterday. "They're fast, they make good decisions ... [but] when we're in the half-court, we just have to become better at running the offense hard and finding ways to come open."

"Teams [in the ACC] are going to be better, they're going to be getting back a lot better and they're going to take away our transition, so we're going to have to be able to score in the half-court," Hayes added.

Elon, which plays in the Southern Conference, is on a three-game winning streak. The Phoenix's last game was a 79-76 overtime win against Lipscomb, which upset Indiana, 74-69, on Sunday.

And that's why, Williams pointed out, there always remains one priority even though there are things a team might want to work on in those so-called easy games.

"There's no seeing what you can experiment with in a game," he said. "You have to kick their butt as much as you can; that's all you care about, winning the game."

ELON (4-4) @MARYLAND (9-2)

Tonight, 8

Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

Line: Maryland

by 20

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