While Maryland fought hard, mistakes are what kept the Terrapins from coming away with a signature victory against Connecticut on Friday. The two halves were almost complete different games, as Maryland played with much more energy and execution in the second half. I break down the pros and cons of the game.
- Roddy Peters: In his first of many games as a Terp, Peters really exceeded expectations in this game. Going up against one of the top players in college basketball in UConn guard Shabazz Napier, Peters held his own and remained calm and composed. One play that stood out was when Peters took the ball coast to coast in transition, drove down the lane and drew two defenders only to dish the ball to a wide open Charles Mitchell in the lane. The poise and ease that Peters made the play proved that he truly is the pass-first point guard that Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has always wanted. Despite only one game played, I think Peters showed that he has the talent to make an immediate impact. I am targeting Peters to be named the starting point guard by the Ohio State game (Dec. 4).
- Outside shooting: forward Evan Smotrycz, guard Nick Faust, and guard Jake Layman were the only Terps to shoot three pointers, finishing 8-of-19 from beyond the arc. Despite Faust shooting 3-of-10 from three, I believe that those shots are necessary early in the season to help Faust gain the confidence needed. Smotrycz and Layman combined to shoot 5-of-8. This is certainly Maryland’s strength as Layman’s stroke looks much improved and Smotrycz has so much composure in each shot that he takes. There will certainly be games where Maryland shoots poorly, but Turgeon has weapons at the point and center positions to make up for those points, forcing defenses to play more honest.
- Intensity: During the first half, it was clear that Maryland looked flat and flustered, helping UConn gain momentum. Maryland switched to a zone defense and three blocks by Amida Brimah extended UConn’s lead, thus giving UConn almost all momentum. The second half was a much different story. Maryland outscored UConn 41-30 in the second half. When the Terps were down 17, the team did not give up and continued to buckle down on defense and execute on offense. Little by little, Maryland inched closer. Last year, we saw a Maryland team that sulked when the opponent went on a stretch and was exuberant when they were dominating. Against UConn, we saw a team building on that as they continued to play with emotions yet did not compensate execution in the process. This will something for Maryland fans to keep an eye on.
- Varun Ram: The former Division III guard almost got a steal against Shabazz Napier. However, Napier did not turn the ball over, but Ram’s defensive presence was great to see. Ram could be a spark plug off the bench for Maryland this season.
- Zone defense: This is what led UConn to running away from Maryland in the first half. It was not that the zone was poorly executed, but UConn was able to make all the right passes to pick apart the defense. There were a couple of instances where UConn would leave a man on the baseline, forcing Mitchell to step out. From there, UConn moved right past Mitchell, forcing Maryland to collapse defensively to help. Also, Maryland was slow at times on the pick and rolls. This is not a defense that Maryland should forget about, but Turgeon certainly needs to work on in practice.
- Dez Wells at the point: Turgeon said that he felt Dez was also in fifth-gear and too aggressive at times. That is the wing player in him coming out in him. Wells is not a true point guard as we all know. Maryland finished the game with 13 turnovers, but six came from Wells alone. He will see the majority of the time at the point due to Seth Allen being out 8-10 weeks. My only question: why put Wells and Peters on the floor together only for Wells to handle the ball? Wells is much more effective off the ball. Turgeon needs to do a better job in this aspect of the game.
- Resume: Overall, Maryland played great. I do think the UConn game is more encouraging than the Kentucky game last year. Despite Maryland only losing by one to a top-25 team, the selection committee will not care come Selection Sunday. Maryland missed a great opportunity to add to its resume. There is a possibility that the committee factors in the loss of Allen, but a win without him would have looked that much better. The Terps still have plenty of chances. Oregon State looked like a great matchup before the season started, but the Beavers opened up the regular season with a loss at home against Coppin State. Nonetheless, Oregon State will be competitive this year. Notable games include Oregon State, Paradise Jam (La Salle, Providence, Vanderbilt), Ohio State and are huge opportunities for resume-building wins.