Terps 'Grow Up' Against UNI
ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands -- Maryland played one of its most complete games of the season with four players in double figures in its 80-66 victory against Northern Iowa on Sunday night in the semifinal round of the 2013 Paradise Jam Tournament at the University of the Virgin Islands. The Terps (3-2) will play in the finals at 10 p.m. tonight against Providence, which defeated La Salle last night.
Northern Iowa might not be the flashiest opponent, but the Panthers were a hard-nosed, aggressive team that refused to quit. The Terps were forced to rely on a balanced offense and a total team effort defensively to come up with the win.
"It's good to win two in a row. It's good to beat a good team that's going to win a lot of games," Terps head coach Mark Turgeon said. "We've put ourselves a little bit behind the eight-ball [by losing two games early in the season]. I have a lot of respect for their coach and their program. I was as nervous as I could be all day."
After the game, Turgeon commented on this being his team's most complete game so far.
"Absolutely. We talked about it before the game. We had no chance unless we played that way. We knew it. Our guys stepped up tonight, they were ready to play," Turgeon said. The great thing is our defense is at another level and it gives you a chance …I thought we played smart defensively, we knew where shooters were and non-shooters were. It was really good. It was a really good night for us early in the year."
The Panthers' defense focused on limiting shot opportunities for Maryland sophomore Jake Layman, which opened up more opportunities for some of the Terps' other shooters. Junior Evan Smotrycz, who returned to the starting lineup after not starting in the Terps' opening round win over Marist Saturday, had a breakout night. He scored a career high 20 points, despite a rocky start.
"It's nice to see guys hit shots aside from Jake Layman," Turgeon said. "[Evan] Smotrycz hit some shots, Nick [Faust] hit a shot, Dez [Wells] was able to get to the basket; it was just a gutsy win for us."
Much like the Terps, Smotrycz didn't start off shooting the ball particularly well. In fact, he missed his first four shot attempts, including all three of his first half shots from long range. After misfiring on his third 3-pointer at the end of the first half, Smotrycz had enough. He corralled his own rebound and took the ball to the rim for the hoop and the harm.
"I thought we did a really good job finishing the half; that carried over into the second half, " Smotrycz said. "I think we have big bodies, so we kind of have to play that game, especially against a team like that. They try to spread you out and they try to wear you down on the inside, so we tried to take advantage of that. And I thought we did a good job rebounding and working it inside."
The inside out approach paid off in the second half, and Smotrycz hit seven of eight, including all three of his shots from beyond the arc, in his best performance yet as a Terp.
"I'm still working my way back into shape. I haven't played games in a long time so its coming back," Smotrycz said. "It was definitely a fun game to play in, and I am really proud of the way we played. It was definitely a good battle to be in."
Northern Iowa took advantage of the Terps' slow start. However, junior Nick Faust picked off a Panthers' pass, taking it the length of the court to get things rolling. Faust had two steals in the first half, converting both into points for the Terps. He finished with 17 points, six rebounds and three steals in what Smotrycz called "the best game [Faust] has ever played."
"I told him after the game that it was the best game he has ever played," Smotrycz said. "I don't even care. I haven't even seen him play all of his games, but that in my opinion he just played his butt off, and I think Coach agreed me. It gave us a real boost early and in the second half too."
Besides Faust and Smotrycz, Layman poured in 19 points and hit two backbreaking 3-pointers that helped distance UMD from a pesky Northern Iowa squad that didn't fade until late. Even so, Maryland played solid perimeter defense, holding the potent Panthers to just 7 of 29 from deep. Forward Seth Tuttle exploited the Terps' interior to the tune of 19 points and nine rebounds, but overall Maryland played well defensively. UMD out-rebounded UNI 37-33, forced 14 turnovers and held the Panthers to 38.6 percent shooting from the floor.
After the game, Turgeon said his team is "growing up."
"We had to play two completely different kind of teams these first two games. We had to guard a certain way against Marist and a different way [against Northern Iowa]," Turgeon said. "We talked about them not beating us from the 3-point line. They got some open looks that they normally make, but I think we wore them down with our defensive pressure."
The Terps will need that same defensive pressure and complete team performance as they prepare to play their third game in four days against an undefeated Providence team that is playing some of its best basketball.
"We're tired of losing, we're tired of hearing from Coach about not defending well or doing the things we're supposed to do," said Dez Wells, who started at point guard over freshman Roddy Peters (the starter during the Marist game) and scored 16 points, handed out six assists and grabbed six boards. "We felt like we let one go against Oregon State and we don't want that to happen anymore."
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