Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Turnovers! I know we’ve become so brainwashed by them that we may actually believe double-digit turnovers are a good thing, but they aren’t Against Northern Iowa, Maryland had their lowest turnover number since, well, since Mark Turgeon’s first season here. When you’re not giving away possessions and playing stingy defense, it doesn’t matter how poorly you shoot in the first half. That’s exactly what Maryland did, and go figure, they put work in on a team that could flat out ball with anyone.
Maryland saw how good they could be when things are clicking on the offensive and defensive end, but more importantly, when they’re taking care of the basketball. The Terrapins will always have one of their scorers figure out how to shoot by the end of the game, but they won’t always get this kind of steady point guard by committee play. They turns those extra possessions they got for the game into a season-high in points, and that’s something Northern Iowa was never going to be capable of handling.
They’ve scored eighty points before; they’ve played gritty defense before; they haven’t played that efficiently before.
Maryland’s teams always shoot pretty well; we’ve come to expect that from them. Last season they had to shoot lights out almost every single game (50% or better) in order to even have a chance at winning. If they play this efficiently (which I don’t think they will) more often than not, they may yet be a tourney team. UNI was a very good team, and Maryland dispatched them handily. That’s a good sign.
Let’s not write off Smotrycz, though. His career high twenty points were what really helped lift Maryland over the hump against UNI. Smo may not be an elite athlete, but he knows how to use a pump fake to get to the line, and how to knock down three pointers enough to keep defenders off their heels. That basically negates their athletic advantage, and when he’s knocking down shots from deep, he’s almost impossible to guard.
Layman’s three triples in the second half were what catapulted Maryland to victory, and he deserves the game MVP for it. What’s interesting is that he played fewer minutes against Marist than he had all season long, and responded with an incredible output.
This team is even more two-faced than last year, guys. In the first half of games this season, Maryland scores a meager 32 points per game. We’ve seen this occur in every game this season, where they come out of the game terribly and have to refocus at halftime. That’s where they start to shine, as they average 42.6 points per game in the second half. That’s a ten point difference, and it’s something that is startling both for how impressive it is and how bad it could eventually be.
They won this time around, but will they manage that against even better opponents every single time? It makes sense that halftime adjustments can help bring a team back to normalcy after a poor outing, but they really have to work on that one.
The second is that they’re generating even more steals. Last year, they were really bad at creating turnovers; close to four per game, which is a pretty discouraging number overall. This year, they’re up to around seven. While that may seem like a small number, it points to a team that is much more aggressive on the defensive end. They’re pressing more often, taking risks more often, and generally more active on the defensive end.
But perhaps more importantly, their backcourt is just stronger this year because of their almost automatic size advantage against every opponent they’re going to face. Only Varun Ram is under 6’4 (Roddy is definitely 6’4), and the Terps are using that length to frustrate opposing guards. Washpun and Mitchell are both very good athletes, and they still struggled holding onto the ball against Maryland’s size. In the future, I can see Turgeon throwing lots of guards out there to frustrate even the best opponents.