Feb 15, 2014; Durham, NC, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard/forward Jake Layman (10) shoots over Duke Blue Devils guard Andre Dawkins (34) at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (1-0) vs. Central Connecticut State Blue Devils
The Location: Xfinity Center, College Park, Md.
The Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
The Terps opened the season with a bang in their rout of Wagner on Friday night. It was long awaited debut of a stellar freshmen class that included guard Melo Trimble, guard Dion Wiley, forward Jared Nickens, and forward Michal Cekovsky. Maryland got a huge performance from a majority of the roster, including forward Jake Layman and guard Dez Wells. Layman really was a pleasant surprise. The Massachusetts native posted an impressive stat line of 16 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in the win over the Seahawks. Now obviously, the opponent has to be taken into consideration. However, many have been looking for Layman to become more aggressive and take that next step towards being an elite player on this roster. He definitely did that, and if this is a sign of things to come, the Terps could be in for a huge season from the junior forward.
Maryland’s starting lineup may not have been what some people expected, but it is the first game and Mark Turgeon has plenty of time to tinker and see what pieces play well together. Turgeon opted for a small lineup consisting of Trimble, guard Richaud Pack, Wells, Layman, and forward Jon Graham against Wagner. For the most part, it seemed pretty productive from a scoring aspect. Some may have qualms with Trimble not registering an assist, but the Bishop O’Connell product still finished with 13 points (including back-to-back threes). After the game, Turgeon did add that Trimble never really got into the flow of the game, and that may have been the reason for the lack of helpers.
One of the most interesting storylines from the opener was the impact of Pack. The North Carolina A&T transfer looked like a grizzled veteran, and showed signifcant range from beyond the arc. Pack also proved his worth on the glass with six rebounds on the night. Obviously, no one is expecting Pack to lead the team in scoring as he’s more of a complementary piece. However, with Pack potentially being ready for the bigger stage, it allows Turgeon to ease along Wiley and Nickens.
Central Connecticut State also has one game under their belt as they fell 71-63 at the hands of Fairfield in the Connecticut 6 Classic on Friday afternoon. The Blue Devils also hail from the NEC, and were picked to finish second in the conference’s preseason poll. They are coming off a year in which they went 11-19, and failed to make the postseason of any kind. However, there is a good amount of talent that the Terps will have to keep their eye on.
Promising sophomore guard Matt Mobley certainly got his season off on the right foot as he went off for a career-high 30 points in the loss against Fairfield. Mobley is the type of guard that can score from all over the floor. Against Fairfield, he showed his knack for getting to the rim as he shot 12 free throws (made 11). The Massachusetts native also had a scoring touch from the perimeter as he connected on three-of-six shots from beyond the three-point line. He was also one of two starters to play 40 minutes, proving his durability. Maryland really didn’t have to worry about that type of potent scorer against Wagner. Mobley is definitely a guy that the Terps will have to key on in the backcourt.
The interior is where Maryland could have a little bit of trouble with Central Connecticut State. The Blue Devils most established big man is Forestville native Brandon Peel. Peel is a very athletic big man that makes his presence known around the rim. While he doesn’t score a ton (averaged 7.1 points-per-game last season), the DMV product is certainly what many would call a glass-eater. Peel grabbed nine rebounds and blocked a shot in the Blue Devils opener. It’ll be interesting to see how Peel matches up with Cekovsky, Dodd, and Graham in the low post.
Three Things To Watch For
1.) Play of the Maryland bigs – This is going to be a storyline for a large majority of the non-conference schedule. In game one, Turgeon elected to go small and go with Graham as his starting center with Layman being the role of the stretch four. Obviously, things will probably change quite a bit by the time Big Ten conference play rolls around. Forward Evan Smotrycz will miss the first six weeks of the season, and is always a candidate to start. However, if Layman keeps up his stellar play, Smotrycz could be the first guy off the bench once he returns to action. It’ll be interesting to see how the bigs continue to play, especially the development of Cekovsky.
2.) Outside shooting – Maryland could be one of the most dangerous three-point shooting teams around this year. In the two exhibition games and against Wagner, the Terps really shot the lights out. Maryland shot 50 percent (7-of-14) from beyond the arc against the Seahawks, including two from Trimble and one apiece from Nickens and Wiley. It’s good to see that the youngsters aren’t able to shoot the long ball early on in their careers. Nickens is a guy that had a knack for creating his own shot while at the Westtown School, and could be even more lethal with plays being run for him. Former Terp Seth Allen led the team with a 38 percent clip from the outside last season, and that number could be much higher for a few players. It was also a pleasant surprise to see Pack bury a pair of trifectas, which will certainly add another dimension to his game.
3.) Melo Trimble – Maryland’s sensational freshman point guard had his moments of success and his moments of struggle throughout Friday’s season opener. Trimble showed that he could score the basketball with ease, including a pair of consecutive three-point field goals. However, the local product didn’t register a single assist, and wasn’t able to distribute extremely well. Look, it’s just one game and it did appear that Trimble looked a little bit uncomfortable from the opening tip onward. The position will come with time, and Trimble can’t afford to have more games like this in the future. Aside from the former Bishop O’Connell star, there isn’t another true floor general on the roster. Pack and Wells could share point guard duties if needed, but this is going to be Trimble’s show. It’ll take time, and it’ll be the true x-factor for the Terps all season.