- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2006

Slowing things down might have provided the boost the Maryland basketball team needed to shake off some offensive doldrums.

The Terrapins, whose willingness to wait for open looks led to their victory Sunday against Wake Forest, welcome Virginia Tech to Comcast Center tonight. It is Maryland’s first game in nearly a week, and it will be intriguing to see if the Terps are equally disciplined against the Hokies.

“You go through periods where you start to rush and all the sudden it shows up,” coach Gary Williams said. “You have to work on it, get that under control and wait for the next thing to pop up. You think you can score taking shortcuts. You don’t just take your time and run your offense and be patient. Patience usually leads to really good shots.”

Williams can only hope the No. 22 Terps (12-4, 2-2 ACC) keep that in mind against the Hokies (10-7, 0-4). Maryland’s ability to remain within its offense — such as a 22-assist performance in Sunday’s 90-86 victory over Wake Forest — is vital to avoiding a melange of miscues.

Only twice this season has the Terps’ offensive rhythm been completely disrupted. Against George Washington in the BB&T; Classic on Dec. 5, D.J. Strawberry struggled in his initial extended test against a stifling pressure defense and the Terps fumbled away 25 turnovers.

It took more than a month for another team — Duke — to try to smother the Terps as much as the Colonials did. The Blue Devils were even more effective, establishing a blowout by halftime and forcing 29 turnovers Jan. 11.

“In both cases we didn’t do a good job of getting in our sets, not necessarily running our plays,” forward Nik Caner-Medley said. “It’s just something that sounds a lot easier than it is if it’s not something you focus on.”

So the Terps worked to corral their occasionally out-of-control offense. Special emphasis was placed on setting up and waiting for screens and getting all five men across halfcourt before beginning a play.

The benefits of the not-so-revolutionary approach were immediate against Wake Forest. The Terps’ offense was far crisper even when James Gist and Ekene Ibekwe (foul trouble) and Travis Garrison (suspension) were off the court at the same time. The poor decisions so prevalent in the loss at Duke were for the most part gone, replaced instead by smooth cuts and open looks.

“It was just a point where I had to let everybody settle down and get to their spots before we started running the offense,” Strawberry said. “The offense became more efficient against Wake Forest. I’m trying to keep that same tempo and just slow down a little bit and just see the floor a little bit better.”

Strawberry’s play — and his continued adjustment to running an offense in his first season spent primarily at the point — is directly related to how quickly Maryland enters its offense. The junior admittedly enjoys an up-tempo pace, though he realizes a steadier approach will create opportunities for everyone in the Terps’ scheme.

That happened against Wake, when Strawberry shook off his forgettable performance at Duke to score a career-high 18 points. He finished with only four assists, a figure that belied his command of the offense against the Demon Deacons.

“He made some really good plays that didn’t even show as assists where he just spaced the court really well, was able to make a pass and we passed for a layup,” Williams said. “It should be like hockey where you get two assists for that.”

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