Maryland hosted Wake Forest tonight, looking to bounce back from two heart-breaking losses on the road. Early in the first half, it looked like Maryland pre-Seth Allen: sloppy and inconsistent. Despite a late surge, Maryland held on 71-60 behind Nick Faust’s career-high 20 points.
In the first ten minutes of the game, Wake Forest was sharp defensively and took advantage of four Maryland turnovers in the first ten minutes. From there, it was all Maryland. Dez Wells kept up the intensity, Faust made a couple nice plays, and Allen ran an offense that seemed lively. Roddy Peters stepped in and for the most part, the offense seemed to not miss a beat.
Devin Thomas, widely known in College Park as Alyssa Thomas’ brother, dominated Maryland as he shot 66 percent from the field and had 11 points and 15 rebounds, 12 of those being defensive rebounds. Thomas benefitted from numerous defensive switches from pick-and-rolls, allowing Thomas to take advantage of some mismatches. Thomas got hurt after he took an elbow to the stomach from Evan Smotrycz with Maryland up 13, but returned minutes later to lead the late rally.
What made Tuesday’s game different than most is that it was not the offense that won Maryland the game, but their increased urgency of the defensive end, especially from Jake Layman. Layman’s defense has been under scrutiny this year, but tonight’s performance put those claims to rest. Layman used his long arms to steal an inbound from Wake Forest to score and put a ton of pressure when Maryland ran the full court press. In a night where Maryland’s shots weren’t falling with the exception of Faust, the Terps had to increase the intensity on defense to win this game. Layman’s defensive intensity spread through the rest of the team as Maryland forced 18 turnovers and turned it into 12 points.
Another aspect of tonight’s game that stood out was Charles Mitchell’s post moves. Mitchell has always been a force down low, but Mitchell was much more efficient with the ball, shooting 6-of-8 with 12 points while also grabbing seven rebounds. Going up against good post players in Devin Thomas and Travis McKie, Mitchell will certainly look to keep up the momentum.
Although Wake Forest is not a premier ACC team, the Demon Deacons did knock off North Carolina to begin ACC play. A team that has talent inside and out, Maryland played like the better team throughout the game. Faust is starting to heat up, Layman is opening his game offensively, Wells is playing more aggressive, and Dodd is giving Turgeon a post option not named Charles Mitchell. To sum it up, Maryland is peaking about three weeks before the ACC tournament begins.
With the win tonight, Maryland evens their ACC record at 7-7, moves to 15-12 overall, and moves up to seventh in the ACC due to NC State getting blown out by Clemson. The Terps will need to continue to play like they did for the final 30 minutes if they want any shot at the NCAA tournament because Maryland will host top-ranked and undefeated Syracuse in six days.