Jan. 14, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
Like Georgia Tech, Maryland has a new coach and when the Yellow Jackets play the Terrapins up there today, the two teams will be similar in several ways.
Mark Turgeon, who replaced Gary Williams at the helm in College Park, has said several times that his team has little margin for error, a lack of depth, and that the Terps will struggle from time to time in implementing their new systems.
It’s like he and Tech coach Brian Gregory have compared notes.
Maryland didn’t exactly put the wood to Wake Forest the other day on the way to a 70-64 win, but the Terps grabbed 21 offensive rebounds to the Demon Deacons’ 10. That caught Gregory’s attention.
“Maryland is a tremendous offensive rebounding team, and you have to control the glass to control the tempo of the game,” the Tech coach said. “You don’t want to waste great defensive possessions by giving up second shots.”
The Jackets have hit the glass in their first two ACC games, winning the battle of the boards 34-29 in a win at NC State, and 38-26 in a loss to Duke.
Gregory would like to see that trend continue, which will require keeping Maryland forwards Ashton Pankey and James Padgett at bay this afternoon.
The Terps, though, present some other challenges as well.
Sophomore guard Terrrell Stoglin is leading the conference with a 21.3-point scoring average, and Ukrainian freshman center Alex Len is 7-feet-1.
In a testament to the ACC’s parity, each of its teams, other than Duke, already has a conference loss after North Carolina was whomped Saturday at Florida State.
The Jackets (8-8, 1-1 ACC) and Terps (11-4, 1-1) may be a bit like two siblings in the middle of the family pecking at each other while trying to forge their identities.
Rice has averaged 25 points in two ACC games while hitting 17-of-27 shots from the floor (63 percent), and Udofia has averaged 18.0 while hitting 11-of-17 (64.7 percent).
“We made shots in those two games, which sometimes cures all ills,” Gregory said of the Jackets’ first two conference tests. “I thought defensively, especially from the 3, we’ve been pretty good. We’ve got to be a little better against dribble penetration.
“We put a lot of pressure on our big guys to guard a lot of post-up situations one-on-one.”
Perhaps as much as anything, today’s game will come down to commitment.
“That’s why we lost some of the games, like Mercer,” said Tech center Daniel Miller, who’ll wage conflict with Len. “We weren’t giving our best effort. We gave it a try, and we lost to Duke but it was a lot more fun to play [like that], and we had a chance to win. Then, we got a good win [at NC State].
“[Gregory] said, ‘You guys can’t just come out and play well for the big games; it’s got to be on your mind all the time.’ “