The Great Gist-Osby

Many of coach Gary Williams' most successful teams at Maryland have had a dominant post presence: Joe Smith and Obinna Ekezie in the 90s; Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox for Maryland's two Final Four runs. It's a must-have piece for Williams' offense to run efficiently.

This season—and especially in the last month—seniors Bambale Osby and James Gist have been the stalwarts down low. While Osby is a true, old-school, back-to-the-basket center, Gist is versatile enough to pound down low and then step outside and knock down the jump shot. Guarding both has proved difficult of late—they combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds against Duke and 34 points, 18 rebounds in Maryland's upset of North Carolina.

"They're the toughest frontcourt we've played all year," said DeMarcus Nelson, whose Duke team had already faced the formidable frontcourts of Wisconsin and Pittsburgh.

For Maryland, their play has been exactly what it's needed to break an early-season scoring malaise.

"It's really helped our offense out," said Gist, who has averaged 19 points and 8.5 rebounds in the last eight games. "When we get the ball into me and Boom, we can run our offense through [us]. Between me and Boom, we can pass, we can score inside and being able to that is the strength of our team."

Gist, the team's lone four-year senior, was expected to put up big numbers this season. Osby's emergence as a legitimate scoring threat, though, has been a pleasant surprise for the Terps. Coming out of junior college in Texas two seasons ago, Osby had a reputation as a physical post presence with limited offensive skills. Last year he averaged 5.8 points in just over 13 minutes per game but became a fan favorite for his rough-and-tumble play and throw-back afro.

Now he's a fan favorite for his scoring prowess. He lost weight over the summer to become more agile and continued to develop his post moves. With Ekene Ibekwe and Will Bowers graduating, Osby has taken on a new role that requires him to produce. When Osby struggled at the beginning of the season, Williams started Braxton Dupree, but Osby quickly proved too valuable to sit, even for a couple minutes.

"The last month or so it's been his most consistent play since he's been here at Maryland, there's no doubt about it," Williams said.

Osby's 20 points and 15 rebounds against Duke were both career-highs. In five ACC games, he's averaged 14.8 points and 10.2 rebounds, one of just two players averaging a double-double in conference play. Even his free-throw percentage has gone up nearly 8 percent.

The transformation hasn't been that complicated: Osby said it's as simple as his teammates passing him the ball and him being ready. Beyond that, there's few players in college that can match Osby's strength, allowing him to establish prime position and score easy baskets. He's also benefited from Gist's improved play, which prohibits defenders from keying in on one or the other.

"They complement each other well with one just being strong and the other one really more of a freak athlete shooter," Nelson said.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski shook his head in astonishment when asked to describe the duo's play against his team Sunday.

"Osby and Gist gave us and will give a lot of people problems," he said. "You're not going to stop their scoring. You have to try to limit it a little bit."

Krzyzewski went on to call Gist a pro, something Gist will certainly have the opportunity to be next season. But will Osby? Williams can see it.

"I think Boom is certainly good enough to play in Europe somewhere," Williams said. "There's not many guys as strong as he is, that can run like he does, that can play with their back to the basket, especially over there."

Luckily for Williams, they're both still in college for another few months.

Dupree's minutes dwindle

Braxton Dupree, the highly-touted center out of Baltimore who many compared to Lonny Baxter, has played just 15 minutes in the last four games and never got off the bench against Duke.

Dupree started eight games earlier in the season in place of Osby, who Williams said benefited from seeing the flow of the game before playing. In his first start, Dupree scored a career-high 14 points against Lehigh and then scored 10 points in the next game against Illinois.

With Gist and Osby's emergence, as well as Shane Walker playing an increased role, Dupree's minutes have decreased. Williams said it's in part because Dupree has struggled to adjust to the speed of the college game, but also because Maryland's opponents of late have been guard-oriented, creating match-up problems for the Terps' big men.

"He's got to get in a little better physical conditioning. I think he's shocked at the quickness of the game. Everybody knows college is more physical than high school. It's also a lot quicker," Williams said.

"He's got to make some adjustments to his game. I think he will. He's really a good person. It's going to be a big spring and summer for him but, you know, we still have 11 regular season games left too."

Virginia and the three-ball

Virginia has attempted 170 three-pointers through 18 games, most in the ACC. In its last game against Georgia Tech, it took 36 three-pointers, a season-high.

"That's a lot of threes. That's firing," Williams said. "They're not afraid to take them in transition. It's one thing to take them out of your half-court offense but when they take them in transition it's really hard to get matched up when it's not covering one or two guys on the three-point line, it's covering four with their starting lineup if they start the same way.

"I don't care who your team is, that presents problems."

But Virginia's propensity for the three-ball plays right into Maryland's hands. The Terps are holding opponents to just 30.4 percent from behind the arc, good for second in the ACC.


Williams on Virginia guard Sean Singletary, who withdrew his name from the NBA draft last year and returned for his senior season:

"Obviously he didn't listen to me when I told him to stay in there."

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