It’s over folks, you may unclench your fists. The Maryland Terrapins avoided a scare from a very solid mid major team in USC Upstate to win 67-57 Saturday morning in College Park.
Perhaps it was the really (unusually) early start time of 11 o’clock that made Maryland come out so sluggish and hit 2-of-17 three-point attempts in the first half. Or it could have been the fact that Maryland hadn’t faced a zone defense quite like the Spartan’s all season long, and the young guys needed some time to adjust. Regardless, the Terrapins had to work for this one, but in doing so proved why they are still a ranked team.
In the first half, nothing was going as the Terps found themselves down 28-24. Richaud Pack had six points (on one-of-five shooting), but only Damonte Dodd and Evan Smotrycz were shooting 50% or better and Maryland had only attempted six free throws. Part of that was complacency against the zone defense that continually baited them into taking the easy deep shot. To their credit, Upstate executed the zone to perfection against Maryland, and in their own right managed to hit just enough shots to maintain a lead (even though they were only shooting 32% as a team).
Then the second half happened, and Maryland finally got back to playing Maryland basketball. The Spartans pushed the lead to seven at one point, but it was clear Turgeon told the team they needed to attack the rack more often. Layman, who had one point in the first half, managed to put together yet another impressive game by forgetting about the outside shot and taking what the defense gives him.
His drives to the basket created offense for everyone as the zone was forced to collapse on him, and he finished with 17 points on the day. His passing also set others up big time, and while he only had two assists in the box score, his ball movement was better than that. He’s taken the next step as a player and even when his shot isn’t falling, Layman is playing complete basketball. He’s solid in every facet of the game and is a big reason why this team barely flinched when Dez Wells went down.
It also helped that a guy like Evan Smotrycz, who has seen everything during his college career, came back and showed why he may be a valuable addition to that second (or first) unit. Smotrycz finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds, but his ability to swing the ball quickly around the perimeter and pick up second chance points were a big reason why Maryland pulled ahead late in the game.
Another big reason why Maryland won? Their other stud player, Melo Trimble, knows how to contribute in more ways than one. Trimble wasn’t getting a ton of good looks to start the game, but he pieced together an absurd stat line for a player his size. 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists. He’s playing like a senior guard, and it’s terrifying to think of what he’ll become with another year of seasoning. For now, enjoy the fact that Maryland finally has competent play at the point guard position.
It wasn’t pretty, but Maryland got points from eight different players to piece together a win against an Upstate team that just beat Georgia Tech. That’s a better team than one might think, and Maryland got some valuable experience against a zone they’ll definitely face more often later in the season. As we saw last year, that helped the team later in the year when they got to see more looks.
And it’s important to remember that this is a hectic time for these players who are also students. It’s finals time, almost Christmas break, and last year Maryland lost a game around this time to Boston University because of a lack of focus. To have a team this young avoid a tough home loss is huge, and you take it for what it is.
Now they’ve got a nice long rest and a regroup before they head to Oklahoma State to take on the Cowboys on December 21. That will be a good game as well, and one that Maryland might enjoy given the fast pace that Oklahoma State plays at.