Terps turn up pressure, as usual

Young Maryland team is already playing Williams' style

December 04, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — One of Maryland's most enduring memories of last season was the Terps erasing a 16-point deficit in the second half against Michigan State in the NCAA tournament.

Maryland went on to lose on a buzzer-buzzer — a shot that still haunts coach Gary Williams — but the game produced some memorable moments for the pressure defense that it is the team's hallmark.

Three starters have since graduated, but this season's team inherited the pressing, trapping defense of last year. How well the Terps can execute that pressure — often of the full-court variety — will be critical to Maryland's success.

This year's Terps (6-2) — who face an imposing Temple team (4-2) tonight in the BB&T Classic at Washington's Verizon Center — are athletic enough to be a good fit for the aggressive defense that Williams teaches. But Williams said it takes time to integrate this year's six newcomers into the system.

"Obviously the new guys haven't played together with our veteran players. But athletically, we can come after it pretty good defensively," he said Saturday.

"The more you know each other, the more chances you can take because pressure defense is more of a gamble-type thing," he said. "You have to trust your teammates to be in the right spots in case you do get beat. But this team has used pressure well so far in terms of kind of wearing down the opponent. We need to get more steals."

In its last game, Maryland seemed to wear down Penn State in a 62-39 victory on Wednesday night. Penn State shot 20.6 percent.

"It's defense. That's really what we emphasize," junior guard Sean Mosley afterward.

Pressure can take a toll on opposing teams in different ways. Penn State missed 13 of 14 3-pointers. Maryland players said they suspected the Nittany Lions got worn down, partly from having to work just to get the ball up the court.

The Terps needed to play good defense after a poor start. They trailed 7-0. "Our offense stunk," said Williams, referring to the early stages of the game.

Maryland prides itself on its conditioning.

"We have to credit our strength coach, Paul Ricci," forward Jordan Williams said. He said Maryland's conditioning gives the Terps a boost, particularly late in games.

"We needed something to separate us from the rest of the teams," he said.

Maryland ranks second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in field-goal percentage defense at 37.0 percent. Florida State leads at 33.2.

Maryland also ranks second to the Seminoles in three-point defense (29.7 percent).

The Terps are sixth in steals (6.9 per game).

Maryland will be challenged defensively by a large Temple team whose smallest starter is 6-4. The Owls are anchored inside by 6-11 Michael Eric and 6-9 Lavoy Allen.

"We have our work cut out for us," Gary Williams said.

Notes: Jordan Williams said he recovered quickly from a blow to the head against Penn State that caused him to leave the game for good in the final moments. He said he did not require stitches. …Temple is coached by Fran Dunphy, a former assistant to Gary Williams at American University. Williams said the program was low-budget compared to where he and Dunphy are today. He said the coaches shared a small office and spent part of their days "figuring out whether we go to Burger King or Armand's" for meals.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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