There was a time not that long ago that the Landon Milbourne-at-the-four idea didn’t seem like it was going to work.
There was Milbourne, fouling out of two of Maryland’s first three games, and he certainly didn’t look comfortable playing against bigger guys.
But a curious thing happened. He quit fouling. He had 15 fouls in the first four games. In 17 outings since then, he’s had only 29 fouls.
For a team as size-starved as the Terps, this is crucial. Milbourne has not picked up four fouls since November, and was called for three fouls only three more times (Elon, Georgia Tech and Boston College).
Little wonder he’s averaging 32.1 minutes in ACC play.
“That’s just keeping moving,” Milbourne said. “Sometimes, I wasn’t really being lazy but I just didn’t know how to keep moving. Guys would just get position on me and I would try to block their shot or just caught reaching in and just doing cheap stuff like that. As long as I keep my feet moving and try to beat my guy to the spot and get around and front the guys that are guards passing into him easy, it just kind of works out.”
If this season has shown anything really good about the Terps, it’s that Milbourne might be their savviest player. He functions well within the offense, and plus/minus numbers aside, he might be needed on the floor as much as anyone.
Take a look at these baselines —- stats that anyone would have happily taken from Milbourne at the start of the season:
* Double-digit scoring in 13 of the last 15 games
* At least five rebounds in 13 of the last 14 games
* Free throw percentage of .852 while taking nearly as many foul shots (61) as the rest of the frontcourt rotation (67)
Basically, Milbourne’s made the best of a small situation in the frontcourt, improving as the season has worn on. As a result, the necessity of playing him at the four looks clever rather than desperate, and the junior warrants much of the credit for that.
—- Patrick Stevens