Changing of guard gives Terps a big boost

Moving Hayes to the bench, Mosley to starting 5 pay off

March 18, 2009|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -It was the night of Jan. 31, and Eric Hayes was being tactful.

But it wasn't easy. Maryland's earnest guard, the son of a high school basketball coach, seemed dazed as he sat at his locker contemplating the first game of the season in which he didn't start.

"It just may take a little while to get used to that," the junior said delicately.

Armed with six weeks of hindsight, Hayes and the Terrapins no longer need to tiptoe around the subject of his not starting. Coach Gary Williams' move to replace Hayes with freshman Sean Mosley is widely seen as an important component of Maryland's late-season push toward an NCAA tournament berth.

The lineup change "seemed to solidify them," said California coach Mike Montgomery, whose Golden Bears play the Terps tomorrow in a first-round game at Sprint Center. "The last 10 games ... they've been pretty doggone good" with Mosley starting, Montgomery said.

Williams made the move after the Terps had lost four of five. The rugged Mosley gives the smallish Terps needed defense and rebounding. Coming off the bench, Hayes can give the offense a quick lift with his shooting. The midseason move was similar to one Duke made. In February, the Blue Devils inserted a big guard - 6-foot-4 freshman Elliot Williams - into the lineup to give opponents matchup problems. Duke won its next five games.

Maryland beat Miami in Hayes' first game on the bench - he scored eight points - and then won two of three. "I think it's worked out well for our team, No. 1, and then for both of those individual players," Williams said yesterday. "I think Sean likes starting the game - he enjoys it.

"I think Eric Hayes - maybe because of his background as being the son of a coach - he gets a chance to watch for a couple minutes. He's able to see some things that help him when he gets in. And he knows that in the second half he's going to be in there most of the time."

Like many coaches, Williams, in his 20th season at Maryland, once leaned on upperclassmen in important situations. Among freshmen who had to wait their turn was the highly touted Duane Simpkins, who played behind Kevin McLinton in 1992-93. Simpkins started the next season.

Freshmen Joe Smith and Keith Booth started with Simpkins in 1993-94 and taught Williams a lesson.

"We got to the Sweet 16 with those guys starting. That was a pretty good lesson for me that if a guy's ready to play, he's ready to play," Williams said.

Though he is a guard, Mosley, 6-4, has led or tied for the team lead in rebounding five times. "He probably leads the team in rebounding in practice," senior forward Dave Neal said. "He crashes the boards really hard. He gets down there and battles with everyone."

Hayes, from Virginia's Potomac High, started 30 of 31 games as a sophomore. On the night Mosley took his place, Hayes said he couldn't remember not starting. "Maybe my freshman year - second half of the season," he said.

Hayes typically enters games early and is on the court at the finish. In the recent Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, he topped his one-time career high of 19 points twice with 21 against North Carolina State and 20 against Duke.

Hayes had 15 points against Duke in the second half, keeping his team close in a 67-61 loss. "Maybe he's a little fresher in the second half because he doesn't play 18 or 19 minutes in the first half like [Greivis] Vasquez might play for us," Williams said.

Hayes' recent play off the bench has seemed to make him more of a team leader, albeit a reserved one.

"People were criticizing him because he's so quiet," Vasquez said. "We won the first [ACC tournament] game because of Eric Hayes."

MARYLAND (20-13) VS. CAL (22-10)



2:55 p.m.,

Kansas City, Mo.

TV: Chs. 13, 9 Line: Cal by 1

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