The Maryland men’s basketball team had a strong, yet dramatic week to say the least. The Terrapins are set to travel to Michigan on Tuesday.
The Terps started off the week on Wednesday when they hosted a struggling and undermanned Rutgers team. From the opening tip, Maryland proved to be the superior team as guard Rasheed Sulaimon scored seven of the team’s first nine points.
Despite four of Maryland’s five starters scoring in double figures, the story was definitely the play of forward Jake Layman. Layman hadn’t scored double-digit points since the Princeton game back on Dec. 19.
Layman netted 18 points (5-of-10) and grabbed four rebounds in an 88-63 drubbing of the Scarlet Knights. The Massachusetts native was also extremely productive on the defensive end as he blocked a pair of shots and played suffocating defense.
It also saw the return of center Diamond Stone to the starting lineup. Stone performed admirably as he had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the second double-double of his collegiate career. It was short lived though when coach Mark Turgeon had Stone coming off the bench just three days later against Wisconsin.
The only true concern against Rutgers was the fact that star guard Melo Trimble had some discomfort in his hamstring and missed the second half. Trimble had only scored four points before exiting the game early.
The Terps traveled to Madison to face a struggling, but scrappy Badgers squad.
While there was a stark contrast between the two teams heading into the game, it certainly didn’t play out that well. Wisconsin gave Maryland everything they could handle in a contest that went down to the wire.
After a Bronson Koenig three with just 26 seconds left tied the game, the Terps had the opportunity to hold for the final shot in regulation. That’s when Trimble showed tremendous poise as he buried a deep shot from beyond the arc to win it with 1.2 ticks left.
Trimble certainly didn’t show any ill-effects of the hamstring injury against the Badgers. The sophomore point guard scored 13 of his 21 points in the second half, including a personal 10-run over a 2:10 period to give Maryland a 56-48 lead.
Maryland’s frontcourt also played very well throughout the game, especially center Damonte Dodd early on. Dodd scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds, which definitely was his most balanced performance of the 2015-16 season.
It also took some of the pressure off of Stone, who was effective off the bench for the Terps.
Getting to Know Michigan
- Michigan has a much different roster than the one that went to the Elite Eight as a No. 2 seed during the 2013-14 season. The Wolverines underwent some growing pains last season as there was a changing of the guard in Ann Arbor. Coach John Beilein still navigates the sidelines and continues to rebuild the program to the respectable Big Ten powerhouse that Wolverine fans grew accustomed to seeing.
- The one constant from that National Championship contender is guard Caris LeVert. LeVert has been hampered by injuries over the past two seasons as he missed the final 14 games of the 2014-15 season with a season-ending foot injury. LeVert has had a great start this season, but suffered an unspecified lower left leg injury against Illinois and has missed the last two games. Before that, LeVert had been averaging 17.6 points-per-game/5.4 rebounds-per-game/5.2 assists-per-game to lead the Wolverines. Even without LeVert, Michigan still can score from the perimeter (42.6 percent from three) and averages 78.7 ppg. This certainly will test a Maryland defense that defends the long-range shot pretty well, holding opponents to a 39.6 percent clip.
- LeVert, who is not expected to play against Maryland, isn’t the only guard that can shoot from the perimeter. Guards Duncan Robinson and Derrick Walton Jr. are both shooting above 50 percent from beyond the arc. Robinson, a transfer from Division III Williams College, is avearging 11.8 ppg and is shooting a mind-boggling 55.7 percent from three. The sophomore guard is also a very gifted passer, which opens up his teammates for opens looks. On the other hand, Walton Jr. averages 10.1 ppg/5.2 rpg/3.7 apg and is shooting 52.2 percent from beyond the arc. The Detroit native brings a little of everything to the table for the Wolverines. Walton Jr. is a phenomenal jump shooter, but isn’t afraid to dish the ball as well. He shows great poise on the court and is incredibly athletic. This dynamic duo definitely can help pick up the slack for an injured LeVert.
Three keys for Maryland
- Defend the perimeter – As was mentioned above, Robinson and Walton Jr. both are shooting above 50 percent from beyond the arc. On the other hand, Maryland is fourth in the Big Ten in defending the three as opponents are only shooting 31 percent against the Terps. The length of Carter and Layman certainly help to limit opposing players’ ability to make shots due to their length. Maryland definitely has the capabilities to defend against any team in the nation. It’s just going to come down to executing against Michigan.
- Win battle on the glass – The Wolverines rank in the bottom half of the Big Ten in both offensive and defensive rebounds. Michigan operates with a four-guard lineup a majority of the time, so it’ll be all about matchups for Maryland. The Terps’ frontcourt is very deep and should definitely have the size advantage to outmuscle Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle, who are Michigan’s rotational big men. If Maryland can dominate the glass, it’ll be a long way in determining the outcome of the game.
- Don’t let Michigan get out in transition – The Wolverines average 78.7 ppg, which is due in large part to their talented stable of guards. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Zak Irvin, Robinson, and Walton Jr. are as talented a group as you can assemble at the collegiate level and that’s without LeVert. This is a group that can attack the rim like nobody’s business. Abdur-Rahkman is one of the most talented guards that you probably haven’t heard of. The Allentown (Pa.) native is averaging 19.5 ppg over his last two games, and really excels on isolation plays. If Maryland can keep this group out of the passing lanes and avoid the Wolverine fast break, it’ll be another ace in the Terps’ back pocket.