College Park, MD The stats won’t tell the story.
In Maryland’s 88-64 win over NC State Saturday night at Comcast Center; Terrapins forward Jordan Williams scored just 9 points and 9 rebounds; while Wolfpack big man Tracy Smith (who Williams was asked to guard on many occasions) tallied 18 points and 10 rebounds.
To channel Bob Haynie-the stats make it appear as though the Maryland freshman from Torrington, CT “got worked” by his NCSU counterpart. But the stats don’t really do a fair job of explaining what happened in the game.
Early on, Maryland went inside on multiple possessions, establishing a presence down low. Of the Terps’ first 8 points, 4 came from putback opportunities for Jordan Williams. Williams went to the break with 8 points and 4 rebounds (playing 16 minutes), while Tracy Smith had just 6 points and 3 rebounds (while playing 18 minutes). Landon Milbourne (who often helped Williams double down on Tracy Smith) has also picked up 10 points and 4 boards. The Terps used that presence inside to establish a 41-33 advantage at intermission.
By the time Tracy Smith was able to find some better matchups, the Terps had started to make the game a laugher.
Maryland going inside early and often in the 1st half forced NC State to change how they played the game-packing their defense in and giving their guards a chance to shine. Shine they did, as Greivis Vasquez (who had scored just 2 points in the first half) exploded for 17 points after the halftime break; to lead all scorers with 19.
It all happened pretty quickly.
A season ago, Gary WIlliams was forced to use a combination of players in the post that didn’t really have what it took to muscle up against the best players in the ACC. Dave Neal was undersized, Dino Gregory had health troubles and appeared to be a bit soft, and Landon Milbourne was probably more of a 4 (if not a 3). None of them were ready to defend the Tyler Hansbroughs of the world, or even the Brian Zoubeks for that matter.
This season, Jordan Williams has given this Maryland team a legitimate big man in the post, who is capable of throwing his body around against the league’s best. Maryland ended up out-rebounding NCSU 39-37 tonight, and they pulled down 12 offensive boards on 25 missed FG’s. Williams lead the way, as he has all season-which has drastically changed a team that was forced to rely on guards to lead them in rebounding a season ago.
Williams admitted he is playing with much more confidence following the game. “Me being more confident has a lot to do with my teammates. I just credit them.” In a game where his team was forced to trust Williams early in order to break down the ‘Pack defense, that confidence paid off for all parties.
It’s not a perfect equation just yet. As Gary Williams said of his freshman big after the game, “he’s learning.” There’s no doubt of that, as he still isn’t involved actively in many offensive sets-and he can improve at the free throw line.
But for a team that is now tied for 1st place in the ACC (Virginia is also 3-1), there is no doubt that Jordan Williams is passing his first classes in this “education.”
It can only serve to help the entire program.