Whither Vasquez?

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Was there anyone who didn’t think Greivis Vasquezwould have a stretch like the one he’s endured over the last four games at some point?

This is no knock on Vasquez, who is undeniably Maryland’s best player. Trouble is, if I can size that up and you can size that up, someone who’s being paid six or seven figures to lead a basketball program can size that up.

Maryland’s lack of interior scoring punch – meaning a true bruiser who can finish layups after an entry pass rather than a guard slashing to the basket – trickles down to hurt in so many ways. It doesn’t afford Landon Milbourne as many opportunities to float outside and take a 3-pointer. It makes it more difficult to effectively run an offense.

And it places a big honking target on Vasquez, who shot 2-for-13 in yesterday’s loss to Florida State while a handful of defenders (including Jordan DeMercy) hounded him.

“The ball goes in; that’s one thing I’ve never been able to figure out, why some nights it goes in and some nights it doesn’t go in,” coach Gary Williams said. “I think their defense was good, and they were obviously aware of him. He had good games against them [in the past], especially up at our place.”

True enough. Yet over the last four games, Vasquez is shooting 18-for-66 (27.2 percent). The 3-point shooting in that span is 4-for-28 (14.3 percent).

That’s enough of a sample size to invoke the term “slump.” But the real question is how much of a few shaky games can be ascribed to poor shooting, how much to poor decision-making and how much to degree of difficulty because of defensive pressure.

The first factor comes and goes and comes again, and there’s no reason to think Vasquez won’t have some better shooting nights down the road. The second factor is less flighty, and Vasquez can assert greater control over it.  That’s on him.

But he can’t do anything about how opponents defend him. And until Maryland can establish steady scoring inside (and Milbourne did everything imaginable to accomplish that task yesterday), there’s going to be no reason for anyone to take an approach other than emphasizing quiet nights from Vasquez.

It makes sense. And despite his occasional do-it-all proclivities, Vasquez is going to need a fair bit of help from the frontcourt to truly get going on many nights in the next two months.

Patrick Stevens

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