COLLEGE PARK — Georgia Tech faces an interesting conundrum when the Maryland Terrapins show up Sunday at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum: Do they try to swarm around Terps sophomore forward Jordan Williams, double- and triple-teaming him? Or do they play him straight-up and take their chances he can't beat them on his own?
It doesn't seem likely they'll employ the first strategy, considering how poorly it worked out for the Virginia this week. Although the Cavaliers held Williams to season lows in points (four) and rebounds (six), snapping a streak of 13 straight games in which he posted a double double, Williams' teammates made the collapsing tactic look foolish in a 66-42 win in Charlottesville. Maryland shot 68 percent from floor in the second half and was led by a season-high, 22-point performance from senior Adrian Bowie.
"It's pretty tough to score against three guys," said Maryland senior Dino Gregory. "I've never seen something like that. But I thought he did a great job moving the ball, passing it out of double teams. Some players might try to score anyway, but he didn't. But that's obviously a scouting report on us. Shut him down and make the other players beat you. Well, we were able to do that."
Six games into the ACC schedule, it's still a bit unclear what to make of Maryland (13-9, 3-3) this year. The Terps have lost close games to quality opponents on the road (Villanova and Duke), they've been blown out at home (Virginia Tech), but they've also won two against teams they've traditionally had trouble with (Clemson and Virginia).
The game Sunday against the Yellow Jackets could help prove that Maryland just needed some time this season to figure itself out, and that the Terps have now turned the corner. Or, it could also lend weight to the argument that the Terps are likely to remain a middle-of-the-pack team in a conference that isn't highly thought of this year, and that they may be on the NCAA Tournament bubble in a month.
Georgia Tech (10-9, 3-3) has, like Maryland, been up and down this year. But they've been excellent at home, going 8-2 in Atlanta, including blowout wins over North Carolina and Virginia Teach. Junior guard Iman Schumpert (16.8 points per game, 6.8 rebounds) presents just as many match-up problems as Williams does. He's coming off a triple-double against the Hokies (22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.)
"Schumpert's one of the best guards in the country, not just the league," Gary Williams said. "He does a lot of things for them."
Maryland's guards don't have Schumpert's all-world talent, but they have been playing well recently, namely Bowie. Of his 22 points against Virginia, 17 of them came in the second half when the Cavaliers dared him to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. He repeatedly took them up on it.
"I'm just trying to be aggressive at all times," Bowie said.
Had teams decided earlier in the season to try and triple-team Jordan Williams every time he touched the basketball, it might have worked, according to Gary Williams. But with Bowie, Cliff Tucker, Pe'Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin suddenly playing with more confidence, opponents have to employ that strategy at their own risk. Especially with Bowie, who is averaging 11.9 points per game in his last nine contests.
"He's seeing opportunities to drive the basketball," Williams said. "That's the big thing with Adrian. He's become a pretty good shooter, but if you're a pretty good shooter, teams can just run out at you. That doesn't mean you're going to get a lot of shots. If you add the ability to drive the ball, you're going to get good shots. He's expanded him game, which is really good to see."
Will Bowie's hot streak carry over to this week?
"That's the plan. That's what I'm hoping," Bowie said. "But we'll have to see on Sunday."