Welcome to our next edition of "The Five," where we take a look at five trends from Maryland's 77-73 double overtime loss to Clemson in South Carolina March 2.
Wanted: IQ, Grit
Just not good enough. And mostly not smart enough to close taut, 50-50 games like March 2 at Clemson continues to be the theme this month for the Terps.
After playing gutsy ball and storming back late against ranked Virginia and Duke on the road, and then Syracuse at home, all winnable games in the final moments in the last two weeks, the Terps have neither the leadership or the killer instinct to close out tough games.
Poor or rushed shots, everyone trying to be a hero, inexcusable gaffes on defense like leaving shooters open or not helping, the Terps are seemingly looking around for someone to step up and lead, but it has yet to happen.
Had they won, say, three of those four, which includes the Clemson loss, they'd have their sights set more on the postseason. Now they are destined (well, at least let's hope) for the NIT, but that's only if they can win a few more games starting with Virginia Tech visiting Comcast Center March 4.
But so many times with a lead, the Terps have squandered opportunities by allowing grittier teams to claw back in games (see Clemson March 2 when Terps led by nine), be it at the offensive end with no sense of time and score' and rushing jumpers, to the defensive lapses, to the uncanny ability to find new ways to turn the ball over, many of which are of the unforced variety.
The Terps simply can't get out of their way, a theme all season, and March 2 they blew another opportunity to add a quality road win to their sagging resume. They're close, but again it was too little too late as they squandered opportunities in the second overtime -- and throughout much of the game with long offensive droughts -- to pull these sorts of games out. It's the story of the season on a team with a flawed roster and too many disparate parts rarely on the same sheet of music.
"One dimensional" has become the theme of this year's Terps' offense, and the poster child of that has become Jake Layman.
The 6-foot-8 long and bouncy athlete, who had NBA scouts watching his preseason practices at Comcast Center just a few months back when he was bombing 3s, as well as showing more ability off-the-bounce and going to his left, has increasingly slumped into the bad habit of hoisting quick jumpers for the offense-starved Terps. And yesterday was his worst game yet in that light.
The sophomore small forward clanked 1-of-14 field goals and finished with just three points in 35. He once again settled for jumpers (he shot 1-of-9 3-pointers), with only one take to the basket, which he missed. (Not to mention Layman, along with many other Terps for that matter, lapsed defensively and failed to get back in transition on more than one occasion. Clemson's ability to beat Layman and UMD down the floor was one of the main reasons the Tigers led 33-32 at halftime).
If Layman, who in the pre-season appeared the guy to lead the Terps offense, and the player with the highest NBA ceiling, would add an in-between game; would attack the basket and finish or get to the line; it would seemingly open up a clogged Terps' offense -- as well as his own. But he has become increasingly content to float deep beyond the perimeter and try to do his only damage from 20 feet and out. Sometimes that works, but after the first month of the season, it has mostly not for the 40.4 percent field goal percentage shooter.
Maryland needs to play more 'inside-out' offense, and needs more screens and set plays to somehow get its shooters off. But more and more with each game, not only Layman, but the team, continues to settle for an inordinate number of jumpers, many too early in the shot clock. It starts up top with the 'shoot-first' mentality of point guard Seth Allen, and carries over to the wings, with the exception of Dez Wells, the only Terp that will do much attacking of the rim.
Layman has loads of potential. But until he adds more to his offensive arsenal, like an off-the-bounce game, as well as tighten up on defense and do more on the glass, that four-star potential is stagnating. The Clemson game painfully illustrated that.
Speaking of Allen
We've brought this up countless times before, but it needs to be said again in the wake of the Clemson defeat: Seth Allen is not the answer at point.
Yes, the sophomore is one of the team's best players and most reliable scorers. Yes, he canned a 3-pointer, a jumper and made a layup in the second overtime to keep the Terps' hopes alive before fizzling out late. Yes, he scored a team-high 20 points, stole two passes and grabbed six rebounds. And yes, without Allen's slashing to the rim and breaking down the Clemson defense Maryland probably wouldn't have even been in position to claim the game in overtime.
But Allen is a scorer first, a point guard second, and the Terps would undoubtedly fair better in general if he operated off the ball. There were several occasions against Clemson where he hoisted up quick 3-pointers (he shot 2-of-8 from deep) instead of running the offense. Right out of the gate, for example, Allen had a turnover and jacked an ill-advised 3, which caused head coach Mark Turgeon to yank him at the first media timeout.
Backup Roddy Peters may not be a true floor general either, but for periods March 2 he actually handled the point -- in terms of running the show and working the ball around -- better than Allen. In 45 minutes, Allen had just two assists and three turnovers, a that ratio just won't fly when you're trying to spark a stagnant offense.
At Least They Fight
Dez Wells and Charles Mitchell that is. The junior wing and the sophomore center certainly aren't perfect, but the two do bring energy to the floor. While much of the team looked lackadaisical on both ends of the floor, Wells and Mitchell showed some emotion, the former taking it on himself down the stretch and going hard to the hoop, and the latter hitting the boards with reckless abandon.
A usually clutch performer who does his best work late, Wells (16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, a steal and two blocks) drained a 3-pointer after Clemson cut Maryland's lead to 42-41 at the 13:21 mark of the second half. Then, after the Tigers drew to within 48-46, Wells nailed a runner in the lane before knocking down an NBA-like step-back jumper a minute later.
And that was just on the offensive end. With just over five minutes left in the game, Wells recorded back-to-back blocks, first on a Damarcus Harrison layup attempt and the second on a K.J. McDaniels jumper, keeping UMD ahead 52-50.
In the first overtime, with Maryland trailing by three with under a minute remaining, Wells sliced down the line, split the defense and converted a scoop shot. He ended that initial extra period by drawing the defense in before making a nifty dish to Evan Smotrycz, who canned the game-tying 3-pointer, allowing the Terps to fight into a second extra period.
Mitchell, meanwhile, at least showed some muscle inside, a big reason why Maryland held a 63-47 rebounding advantage. He still missed too many bunnies near the rim (six points on 3-of-9 shooting; he missed two putbacks and turned the ball over after another offensive rebound), failed to corral several passes (four turnovers), and didn't always box out -- but the Terps will take the glass-cleaning prowess.
He finished with a game-high 15 boards, 10 defensive, and was rarely pushed around inside. Early during the game, with Maryland ahead 25-18, Mitchell fought for a defensive board and started the team in transition. Seth Allen proceeded to miss a 3-pointer, but Mitchell had run down the floor to snare the offensive board before tapping it in for a layup. The bucket gave the Terps their largest lead of the game, 27-18.
The Sixth Man
So it seems neither Nick Faust or Evan Smotrycz want that starting wing spot opposite Dez Wells. For the first time since Feb. 1 at Virginia Tech (when both Faust and Smotrycz started), the junior from Baltimore got the starting nod over the Michigan transfer.
Faust responded with a foul in the game's first 30 seconds, followed by a dunk, a turnover and yet another foul, forcing Turgeon to sit him down. Then, later in the half, he took an early 3, which drew iron and the ire of his head coach. Granted, Faust picked it up defensively down the stretch, coming up with two second-half steals and a block to start the second overtime, but he scored just seven points (2-of-6 field goals) in 26 minutes.
Smotrycz, meanwhile, who had not had a truly positive outing since early February, came off the bench for the first time in ACC play. He ended up playing 35 minutes and scoring 19 points, including four 3-pointers, tying the most he'd drilled during a game all season. Smotrycz made his first two 3s out of the gate, and after clanking his next two, drilled a huge trey to give Maryland a 42-39 lead in the second half. Of course, he also knocked down the 3 at the end of the first overtime, knotting the score at 62 and forcing a second extra period.
Now, Smotrycz did commit some silly fouls, and he wasn't always effective defensively (especially in transition), but at least, for one night, he found his stroke.
The Five: What I Learned After Clemson
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