COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Don’t think I’m getting ahead of myself. In no way is this column going to suggest that there is anyone on the 2010-2011 Maryland Terrapins basketball roster who could somehow replace a player like Greivis Vasquez.
But something struck me Tuesday night as the Terps (4-2) polished off MEAC foe Delaware State (1-1) 72-54 at Comcast Center.
It seems as though Maryland is best when G/F Cliff Tucker is the most focal point of the offense.
Maybe this was to be expected. After all, Tucker is a senior, and his 6’6″, 200 pound frame with deceptive quickness make him a unique matchup problem on the wing for any team in the Atlantic Coast Conference or elsewhere in the country.
On Tuesday, Tucker was an effective 6-7 from the field, scoring a team high 15 points in just 24 minutes.
He hasn’t become an offensive “star” by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s clearly stood out as the team’s best wing.
“Cliff’s a very important part of our team, obviously” said Head Coach Gary Williams. “He’s one of our best shooters, he’s been a double figure scorer.”
Digging deeper into Tucker’s effectiveness; the senior played 14 minutes in the first half of Tuesday night’s game. He lead Maryland with 11 points on 4-5 shooting and added three rebounds. Maryland outscored Delaware State 40-21 in the half.
In the second half, Tucker played just 10 minutes, scoring only 4 points. Maryland was outscored by the Hornets 33-32 in the half.
It seems to be a bit of a trend.
D1scourse author Patrick Stevens keeps a running tally of the team’s performance when each player is on the floor during a given game. For the season, Stevens tallied a 64 point advantage for Maryland when Tucker has been on the floor. The “plus” 64 points matches center Jordan Williams (the team’s leading scorer) as the biggest differential of any player through the first six games.
He’s not Vasquez (nor should he be expected to be), but he’s certainly been the team’s best offensive wing early on the season. It’s also particularly evident that the team has been better with Tucker on the floor.
With all of that being said, it seemed a bit strange to see Tucker sitting on the bench in the second half Tuesday, especially after having sat for much of the second half in Maryland’s previous game against Illinois at Madison Square Garden.
“We’re just trying to find combinations right now” said Williams. “I thought the guys that were in there played great together.” Williams went on to add “we have a lot more guards than we have inside players too. I gotta get some guys on the court this time of the year. Cliff’s gonna be there in big games.”
For his part, Tucker seemed completely understanding of not seeing much of the second half in a game that wasn’t particularly in doubt.
“There’s time’s where I wanted to be in the game, but coach probably wants to rest me a little more” said the young man from El Paso. “We kinda had the game in hand. I’m not upset, I’m on the bench supporting my team.”
If Maryland is going to be a power in the ACC this season, it looks like they’re going to need Tucker on the floor in every stretch.
Tucker entered the season needing to prove himself as more than just the player who hit “the shot” against Georgia Tech (a buzzer-beating three pointer to stun the Yellow Jackets at Comcast Center) in his junior season.
He’s already shown himself to be capable of consistency during his senior campaign. As that continues, Maryland will have a much better chance to perform at a similarly consistent level as a team.
Hear from Williams, Tucker, G Adrian Bowie and F Dino Gregory following Maryland’s win NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here at WNST.net!