Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Terps Fall In Final Exhibition Game

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

I guess size does matter after all. So do age and experience. It is also helpful when a team’s shots fall. Once the Roanoke Dazzle found the range in the second half, they took over Tuesday’s game at Comcast Center and handed the Maryland Terrapins an 81-72 loss in the Terps’ final pre-season tune-up.

The plot line was fairly clear for this match up. Gary Williams wanted to see his young team tested by the older, bigger, more experienced players of Roanoke’s NBDL team. The Dazzle, one of six members of the NBA’s development league, had three players suit up that had been out of college playing in various professional leagues for at least five seasons.

Roanoke also had size like no other team Maryland will play this season. Four players on their roster measured 6’ 10” or taller, led by the 7’ 2” 300 pound Chris Christoffersen (the fans really enjoyed his Johnny Cash tribute at halftime) and 6’ 11’ Mikki Moore.

Apparently no one bothered to read the script.

The Dazzle, who opened camp on November 8, began the game as if they had just met. At the 11:32 mark of the first half, Roanoke had made only 2 of 11 shots and committed 10 turnovers, at least half of them unforced. Maryland took advantage of this ineptness to lead 25-10, and built their advantage to 35-17 with 4:00 left in the half. In a scene similar to the Terps’ first exhibition game, Maryland allowed their opponent to muster a spurt just before halftime. A 10-0 run by the Dazzle helped cut the Terps’ halftime margin to 38-30.

Hopefully parents with aspiring young basketball players led their offspring away from the television set during an ugly, ugly first half. The teams combined for 29 turnovers and combined to make only 21 of 66 shots (31.8%). Did I mention it was ugly?

John Gilchrist was the only consistent scoring threat on the floor, totaling 11 points on a combination of strong drives and floating jump shots in the lane. He demonstrated his quickness with the ball a couple of times by nearly breaking the ankles of his defender on crossover moves that led to open shots.

It was obvious Coach Gary Williams suggested to his players at halftime that it would behoove them to work the ball inside. Jamar Smith in particular took that to heart, scoring 7 quick points on a dunk, two short jumpers, and a free throw. Chris McCray and Gilchrist also added layups that extended the Terps’ lead to 51-42 with 14:25 to play.

Then the Dazzle’s shots started falling. Someone must have left a window open because Curtis Staples started raining threes. Yes, THAT Curtis Staples who was the long-range bomber for Virginia in the late ‘90’s. Staples knocked down 4 of 6 threes and scored 14 points in the second half to lead Roanoke’s comeback. He led all scorers for the game with 20 points.

The Dazzle outscored Maryland 34-12 over a frustrating 11:55 stretch to build an insurmountable 76-63 lead with 2:29 to play. Roanoke’s players demonstrated their experience by not panicking after their horrendous first half. At the offensive end, they found the open man who often made the shot (59% in the second half). On defense, they controlled the lane and gave Maryland’s guards no open lanes through which to pass the ball.

The Terps were slow rotating over to cover the open three-point shooters and, when they tried to overplay the perimeter players, the middle was wide open for Christofferersen and Moore to throw down dunks or make short jump shots.

The most surprising statistic was the rebounding total, 45-44 in favor of Maryland. The Terps pulled down 21 on the offensive boards against a much bigger team. Travis Garrison led Maryland with a strong 12-rebound effort.

Jamar Smith led the Terps in scoring with 19 points, but made only 7 of 17 shots. Gilchrist added 16 points, and no other Terrapin was in double figures.

Maryland made only 35% of their shots for the game and, even more disturbing, committed 18 turnovers while handing out only 10 assists. Gilchrist was frustrated by this after the game, saying “There were times I was unprepared for things to happen, and they capitalized on it.”

No player had a more drastic turnaround from the Terps’ first exhibition outing than Nik Caner-Medley. After being the best player on the court in the opener, Caner-Medley committed six turnovers and scored only eight points against Roanoke. He summed up the feelings of his teammates in a quiet locker room after the game by saying, “It’s all a learning experience.”

Coach Williams was not happy with the execution of the Terps’ half-court offense. He said after the game “We have to get the ball inside and then score when we do. We weren’t really willing to work to get the ball inside. We thought we could win with jump shots. We made a couple early and probably thought it would stay that way.”

Williams was also quick to put this loss in perspective, “There’s nobody upset or worried. It’s an exhibition game. You couldn’t do better than this game to learn some things. It was good for us. It pointed out some things for us to work on.”

Williams reminded everyone that, “This is a work in progress. We’re trying to get some things down that were automatic two years ago.”

Putting that another way, patience is a virtue that Maryland fans may need during the early portion of the 2003-03 season.

Notes from Under the Shell:
There were other familiar faces on the Roanoke roster; Adam Hall, who completed his eligibility at Virginia in 2002, and Mike King, who played at George Washington through 2001. Hall scored eight points and King added seven.

Johnny Holliday will provide the play-by-play for Maryland football games at NC State and Wake Forest the next two Saturday afternoons, so Chick Hernandez of Comcast Sports Net will join Chris Knoche on the basketball radio broadcasts.

Coach Williams opened his post-game remarks by saying “Should have scheduled an AAU team and given them $25,000 like some other schools I know.” This appeared to be a thinly veiled reference to Connecticut’s game with the AAU Baltimore Ballers, a game the Huskies won 102-44. This was Rudy Gay’s AAU team, and the fact that Connecticut made such a beneficial deal with the Ballers at the same time they were successfully recruiting Gay reeks of impropriety. Kudos to Williams for not selling out his and the program’s integrity in such a manner.


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