Welcome to our next edition of "The Five," where we take a look at five trends from Maryland's 83-79 loss to Pittsburgh at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md. on Saturday Jan. 25.
Problems in the Paint
Oh where to begin. Maryland was not only out rebounded 39-27, the Terps gave up 40 points in the paint. Pitt was much more aggressive on the glass, but the biggest different was that they found bodies to box out. For example, with just under 12 minutes to go in the first half the Terps led 13-10 when Pitt's Chris Jones took a Dez Wells turnover down the lane and put up a floater. Jones' shot rattled off the rim but an unblocked Talib Zanna scooped up the miss and slammed it home…right in front of Charles Mitchell who was still boxing out air. At another point in the first half, Mitchell attempted to box out an imaginary player before the Pitt player even took the shot. The big men can't simply turn and stare at the rim they must find a body and box out.
Maryland was clinging to a two point lead 16-14, with 9:18 left in the first when a Seth Allen miss went off the face of Talib Zanna giving the Terps another chance in their half court set. Wells in bounded the ball to Allen, who found Smotrycz on the wing. The ball went back to Allen at the top of the key, into Wells who dished it off the Shaq Cleare, exactly the type of ball movement needed against Pitt's zone. However, rather than putting in an easy lay up, the ball ricocheted off of Cleare's hands and out of bounds. The play gave the ball back to Pitt and on the ensuing possession, Cleare got tangled up in a back screen leaving Derrick Randall wide open for a lay up, erasing the Terps early lead.
The Silent Treatment
The lack of communication on the defensive end is extremely evident in how Maryland deals with screens. The problem is exacerbated with teams that set back screens, and it's plagued the Terps continuously in more than a few games (Ohio St. Orgeon State, George Washington). In the aforementioned play, midway through the first half, Wells, Shaquille Cleare and Evan Smotrycz all fail to communicate of a simple screen play. Wells is on ball, Randall sets a ball screen drawing Cleare out of the paint. Cleare chooses to go above the screen (head scratcher, but I digress) Randall's screen essentially picking himself off as Randall is left wide open to break back to the rim for an easy layup. The lack of communication is highlighted again early in the second half between Damonte Dodd and Dez Wells. The two fail to communicate on a ball screen at the top of the lane. Dodd cuts Wells off as he leaves a wide open Patterson with a clear path to the hoop. ESPN showed a replay at a low angle, there is no communication between the two. They simply switch on the screen and Dodd takes off—basically screening his own teammate— as Patterson moves toward the hoop.
At the beginning of the second half, Shaquille Cleare backs his man down on the blocks and converts and easy jumper. After Cleare actually converts on the blocks, on the ensuing possession Pitt sends weak side help to prevent the easy jumper on back-to-back possessions. The help defense leaves Jonathan Graham wide open on the blocks for an easy two points. Cleare shows small glimmers of his ability to execute down low, as does Mitchell. I know I have mentioned it before but if either can establish themselves on the blocks, it would force the defense to sag and help down low.
For the most part, Maryland's big men aren't showing that they actually want to take the ball to the rim. Several times throughout the game, Mitchell got the ball down low but he makes it far too evident that he is trying to draw a double to kick the ball out. If he could actually take his man one-on-one the help would have to sag off a shooter or another big man to help, but no one's buying what Mitchell is selling at this point.
Wells Down Low
Late in the second half Wells uses his size to back his man down and posting up for a bucket. Wells posses a unique mix of size and strength that gives him a mismatch against those guarding him. Wells needs to utilize his size and strength and take advantage of his matches more frequently. Since the big men have not proved they can convert on the blocks, Wells would provide a true threat down there, and he has the capability to be one if he gets the opportunity.
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