What began as a closely contested game against two teams looking to make the tournament ended up as a 77-57 blowout by the time the final buzzer sounded. Maryland, showing off it’s Jekyll & Hyde nature, came into the second half up by only two points, 28-26. Whatever Mark Turgeon told them in the locker room at halftime worked, however, as the Terrapins absolutely unloaded on the Wildcats with a 49 point second half that was as close to perfection as you could ask for. In doing so, they sent a message to the Big 10: Get ready.
Led by Dez Wells 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting, the Terrapins looked like a team that was ready to prove something to their future conference during this annual ACC/Big Ten challenge. After starting the second half on 8-of-10 shooting thanks to Alex Len and James Padgett, the Terps continued to roll and put the game away midway through the game. Len finished the game with 13 points and 13 boards (including six on the offensive glass), and forced Northwestern to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him in hopes of shutting down the inside presence he provided. When that didn’t work, Dez Wells and Pe’Shon Howard shouldered the load and found wide open cutters when the defense collapsed on one player.
It was a beautifully played game in the second half for the Terrapins, who now look ahead to play George Mason in hopes of continuing this five game winning streak. Here are a few other thoughts from the game:
1.) Dez Wells changes the dynamic of this offense
Maryland fans should thank the stars that Dez Wells was able to play this season, because without him the Terrapins just aren’t the same team offensively. If Alex Len’s post presence makes everyone’s life easier by opening up the floor, then Wells ability to slash to the basket is very similar in it’s impact on the offense. Wells can blow past nearly anyone on the floor, and at 215 lbs, is unlikely to be stopped by most people in the country who guard him. He then does one of three things, almost always, that go very well for him. He either A) finishes strong at the rim and oftentimes draws a foul, B) makes a quick dish to the open big man down low after help defense has arrived, thus allowing for an easy finish, or C.) kicks the ball out to a wide open Nick Faust/Jake Layman/Pe’Shon Howard, who can drive in uncontested again or hit a wide open shot. It’s seriously incredibly difficult to stop the Terrapins when Wells is being as aggressive as he was yesterday.
The best part about him? Nothing seems too forced, either. He takes what the defense gives him and accommodates for it when they try to take something away. Against an inferior athletic team like Northwestern, Wells has numerous options available. Against a more athletic team, his passing ability will more than make up for the times he can’t just run the entire length of the court for an easy layup (as he did against Northwestern). His game is so versatile that it fits anywhere, and Maryland should, again, thank the stars to have him here.
2.) Maryland is incredibly good at rebounding
No matter who the Terrapins play, they are likely going to be in every game simply because they are incredibly good at rebounding the ball. Against Northwestern, the Terrapins had a massive advantage on the boards 42-15 (ten of which were offensive rebounds). Dominating a game on the glass like that, while also shooting over 50%, makes other teams shudder to play against us. The size that Maryland has can give any team fits, and it certainly did that to Northwestern. Padgett and Len simply have too much length and work incredibly hard down low, never shying away from contact. Same goes for Charles Mitchell and Dez Wells, and by extension the majority of the team. Everyone is willing to put in the extra effort to attack the glass, and that is a direct result of a hard-nosed coach like Mark Turgeon. He is getting these guys to put in the extra effort that it takes to be a great team, and come ACC play, that will serve this team very well.
On an aside, Pe’Shon Howard grabbing five defensive rebounds is a very, very good sign for the Terrapins, who like to run a lot. If he can get his hands on a rebound and initiate the fast break very quickly, the Terrapins can score lots and lots of points in transition. Doing that allows Maryland to go on big time runs that take opponents out of the game in short work.
3.) Maryland has got to take it easy on the turnovers
In the first half, the Terrapins were lambasted by the announcers because of their turnover margin, which is ranked in the 200′s in the country. Not their assist numbers, which is third in the nation, but their tendency to turn the ball over all the time. That’s what happened in the first half, and against a better team that would/will be a damning offense. It’s not so much that the Terrapins are sloppy handling the ball (as in, the turnovers aren’t coming off steals and very, very errant passes), it’s that players on offense sometimes don’t keep their hands up. Charles Mitchell accounted for three that are easily correctable things, like being ready to accept a quick pass from Howard or Wells down low and getting his feet set before dribbling in the post. Faust has the same issue with not being prepared for a pass, when again Wells hit him with a wide open look that just slipped right through his grasp.
Again, these are correctable things that young teams tend to do, and it is honestly a good omen that the Terrapins are still winning in spite of these mistakes. That being said, they do need to be corrected sooner rather than later as conference play is coming quickly, and in the ACC those errors tend to become magnified. Imagine what they’ll play like without 9 turnovers in a half (see: the second half).