Landon Milbourne was not a happy man yesterday after he and his Maryland teammates left Duke with a 41-point drubbing.
Nor should he. No one should be pleased with that sort of display.
But if there was someone on the Terrapins‘ roster who obviously maximized both his effort and his performance yesterday, it was Milbourne.
Even as the will-they-or-won’t-they game is well underway in College Park, it’s becoming clear there are two quiet pleasures of watching Maryland this season.
One is Adrian Bowie’s fearlessness in driving to the basket when presented the opportunity (few were available yesterday). The other is Milbourne’s remarkable ability to play bigger than his size.
The whole Milbourne-as-a-post-player deal didn’t look like it was working in the season’s opening stages. He wasn’t particularly effective in finding his shot, and his rebounding wasn’t much better than a year ago.
The same isn’t true of late. He pretty much willed the Terps past Virginia in the latter stages of Tuesday’s win. He nearly did the same last weekend at Florida State. And he scrapped to the end of yesterday’s humbling before coach Gary Williams relieved him of his duties with 2:59 remaining.
There were a couple telling moments in the closing stages, reflecting both the effort and frustration of two of Maryland’s steadiest players. First there was Milbourne, exhausted in the final stages of another 30+ minute night, desperately trying to snag an offensive rebound despite a 40-point margin – only for it to barely elude his grasp.
The other was a Bowie drive in the final three minutes that left him sitting among the photographers and a what-else-can-go-wrong glare etched across his face.
Milbourne played well. Bowie was flummoxed, but it was hardly a matter of effort.
It’s easy to look at raw stats and come up with conclusions. But sorting numbers has a way of revealing more meaningful truths. That’s why it seemed appropriate to come up with Maryland’s stats over the last dozen games (since the BB&T Classic) to illustrate how valuable Milbourne and Bowie have become to this team:
Interesting, indeed, that Milbourne leads the team in rebounding and field goal percentage in that span (as well as blocks at 1.7 a game) and is only a few points behind Greivis Vasquez in scoring. Bowie, meanwhile, is the team’s No. 2 shooter in the last 12 games.
This is a breakdown that does not suggest fan frustration shouldn’t exist after dropping four of the last six. It’s just saying there are two obvious candidates not to be the target of any scorn at all.