There still must be lingering disappointment from yesterday's loss to Duke - I know I'm still upset - but I think the morning after, Maryland fans still have a lot to look forward to.
I know that I personally have been critical of the early-season play of James Gist and Bambale Osby, the two seniors on the Terrapin roster. In the consecutive losses to Ohio University and American University, the team's two best post players were effectively silent. They coughed up 8 turnovers against 10 points and 9 rebounds combined in the loss to the Bobcats. In the matchup with the Eagles, Gist was limited to a measly 3 points and Boom turned over 4 balls. Meanwhile, the fans' favorite pincushion, Greivis Vasquez, put up 28 points and went 6-of-9 from three-point range. Who's supposed to be leading who?
But things are changing, and hopefully with it, Maryland's fortunes will, too.
Playing top-five teams has had an effect on the two Terp seniors that seems to be for the better. In the last two games, James Gist has exploded for 48 total points and a respectable 18 rebounds. This goes along with his distinction as the second-leading shotblocker in the ACC and an overall terrific defensive player and athlete. Even more surprising has been the sudden development of Bambale Osby as not just a starter, but a legitimate presence in the post. He's had 32 points and 20 boards in the last two games. At the start of the Duke game, his hands looked more sure and steady than I've ever seen, and he was effectively able to utilize his strength to actually finish instead of settling for the foul. And people are noticing the changes and how they're affecting the team.
What's the secret? Gary Williams decided to pull out his secret weapon - former Terp and career steals leader Johnny Rhodes.
Williams had Rhodes come in and talk to the team, according to an article in The Baltimore Sun. He focused some of his attention on the seniors. Here are some excerpts:
"He called me out," Gist recalled recently. "He said, 'It's time for you to step up, and it's time for you to be the leader to get these guys winning.'"
Rhodes stayed to watch practice, and Gist kept thinking about what had been said. After the practice, Gist told the former guard he wasn't clear about how to be a leader.
"I was just telling him that these guys are going to play through him," Rhodes said last week. "I told him, 'You've got to do whatever necessary to get these guys' attention.'"
Also, some other things Gist has been saying are encouraging. He's not making excuses and talking straight, like in this Diamondback column.
"We know we're capable of playing with the top teams in the nation," senior James Gist said. "I strongly believe that we could be a top team in the nation, but we have to want it every night. We gotta want to come out and play hard every night, and that's the difference between us and the top teams in the nation."
He knows what's up, and with the way he's playing, I think he's trying to do what it takes. Osby as well is trying to take more care with entry passes and rebounds.
Of course there are still mistakes: The two still gave away 9 turnovers, but that was more due to Duke's triple teams than being careless (besides the terrible inbound pass at the start of the 2nd half). They have to expand their floor vision and be ready to pass out to the open man, because they'll catch the attention of more defenses if they keep playing at the same level.
There is progress, but the work isn't done - not by a long shot. But at the very least, the men who lead the team the rest of the way are now taking the responsibility and playing like we knew they could. It's a start.
Photo Credits: The Baltimore Sun