Terps Overpower Xavier, On to Sweet 16

I am a moron. At least I'm a happy moron. I like to be right as much as anyone, more than most, but I'm glad I was wrong when I said Maryland would not beat Xavier. After a championship moment at the end of the UNC-Wilmington game, the Terrapins played like champs for most of their second-round NCAA tournament game against Xavier. As a result, they are STILL the defending national champions and live to play the Michigan State Spartans next Friday in the Sweet 16.

Rather than a game with isolated last-second heroics, the Xavier game featured solid and some quiet contributions from several players.

Perhaps the most important performance this season from someone with a mediocre stat line was Tajh Holden's defensive effort against the Musketeers' superstar David West.  My greatest fear going into this game was worrying how Maryland would defend West, one of the best low post players in the nation. 

Coach Gary Williams used a variety of players and even briefly went to a zone defense to slow West down. It was Holden, though, who set the tone early by using his strength to get and keep good position on West, not allowing him to get comfortable and find any offensive rhythm.  West did wind up with 22 points, but his 6 for 17 shooting performance kept Xavier struggling at the offensive end much of the game.

Sleepy Randle also stepped up early in the game, helping Maryland get some easy shots down low.  Randle has struggled at times finishing shots this year, but his 8 for 12 performance today was a key part of Maryland's domination throughout most of the first half.

Drew Nicholas played a fine all-around game, complimenting his 17 points with eight rebounds and five assists.  Steve Blake's nine assists led to many of those layups and dunks the Terps scored.  Maryland, as usual, had an excellent ratio of assists to baskets, 19 helpers on 30 hoops.  Even more impressively, the Terps had only eight turnovers.

Jamar Smith was huge off the bench, with 12 points on 6 for 6 shooting.  Travis Garrison, Calvin McCall, and John Glichrist also contributed to the Terps' overwhelming advantage in bench play. 

Gilchrist particularly impressed me even before he entered the game.  Coach Williams, obviously not happy with his play Friday night, inserted Andre Collins into the game before Gilchrist.  Rather than sit on the bench and sulk, I saw him be the first player off the bench during timeouts cheering and clapping to support his teammates.  Folks, this kid will be a great point guard.

I was extremely impressed with how Maryland took care of business today.  The Terps was a step quicker offensively which led to a month's worth of easy layups, short jump hooks, and dunks.  On defense, they made the Musketeers take quick and/or difficult shots. When they missed, a Maryland player got his hands on the rebound (39-28 edge on the boards).

The Terps were obviously not a team that would be satisfied with their miraculous victory Friday night.  This is a team that believes that they can win another national championship.  I don't think they will, but I have been wrong before.  I would be delighted to be wrong again.

Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at terpwriter@aol.com.

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