A few weeks ago, a Maryland Terrapins squad with more talent was soundly beaten by a more-athletic Cincinnati Bearcats squad, mostly because Gary Williams stubbornly stayed in an ineffective full-court press.
Last night against Indiana, Williams turned it off and allowed his perimeter defenders to turn it on in a zone defense. The result? A solid, 80-68 out-of-conference victory over a slightly-improved Indiana Hoosiers squad.
I don’t know if Williams thinks he can impose a press on any team any time, and far be it from me to question a guy that is the third winningest coach in ACC history.
But the Terrapins' disparity of defensive success in the press against a half-court set is so apparent, that you hope the experiment either improves quickly over the Christmas break against out-of-conference cupcakes, or comes to an end altogether.
One positive about the Terps showing last night was the offensive aggression of Eric Hayes. We last saw Hayes get wide-eyed about scoring in the NCAA Tournament last March, and we saw glimpses of it again versus the Hoosiers.
A transition three-pointer here, and drive to the basket there. With Greivis Vasquez and Landon Milbourne, the Terps are good. If Hayes can come close to being a consistent third scoring option, they can be great.
And that’s without mentioning the versatility of Sean Mosley, or the emerging presence of Jordan Williams, who had double-digit rebounds against the Hoosiers.
Can you crown them winners of the ACC with their performance over the Hoosiers? Certainly not, especially with the strong showing the North Carolina Tar Heels put on against Michigan State, and the surprising balance that Duke has this year.
But they are in the discussion, and the good news for Terps fans is that they don’t have to press the argument about the talent of this squad.