COLLEGE PARK, Md. – There wasn’t anything surprising about Maryland’s 82-48 whomping of Wagner to open the basketball season.
It was just how this Terrapin team took care of business against their overmatched Northeast Conference visitor. Maryland dominated defensively (with a rebounding glitch here and there) and displayed dynamic ball movement that carried the Terps to 54 percent shooting and the never-in-question, lopsided victory.
More to the point, those were traits not always apparent last year when Maryland finish 17-15, bid the ACC adieu, and missed the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year.
“I don’t like to comparing this team to last year’s team,” said Jake Layman, who just missed his first career double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. “I don’t know, I just like this group of guys and the way they fit into this offense. I think one thing that really helps us is that everyone can pass the ball.”
Including Layman, who had a career-high six assists, two-thirds of Maryland’s total of nine.
“Some people are going to look at the score and say that Wagner’s not very good, but it’s not that,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “Wagner plays hard. They compete to the final buzzer and our guys did a lot of really good things tonight, especially on the defensive end. And I thought in the first half we really, really shared the ball.”
Playing their first real game with five newcomers, and minus projected power forward Evan Smotrycz, the Terrapins (1-0) were sharp.
Dez Wells led the Terps with 18 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting night, and Layman was 5-of-7 from the field, starting at power forward in a small lineup that gave the Seahawks (0-1) fits.
The 6-8 junior pulled a Wagner big man away from the basket in the half court offense and facilitated the smooth rhythm and flow, moving the ball until a shooter – Maryland was 7-of-14 from 3-point range – was open, or the defense broke down to create a driving lane.
“He’s a tough guard at the four (power forward) because he’s so quick,” said Turgeon of Layman. “Evan’s injury has been a blessing for our team, not for Evan, but it’s a blessing for our team as the year goes on because we’re finding out a lot about our guys and how they can help us play.”
Smotrycz is expected to return around the first of the year from his broken foot. His boot is off.
Ten different Terrapins scored and all 12 played Friday night. The offense was sharp enough, in fact, that in a statistical anomaly neither point guard Melo Trimble or Wells, the team’s two primary ballhandlers, had an assist. Trimble did notch 13 points n his debut, hitting two threes and 5-of-6 at the line.
“(Trimble) started out kind of slow, he missed a free throw and a couple of floaters that he normally makes,” said Turgeon. “He hit a couple of threes. He never got in rhythm. They pressured him and we didn’t handle their pressure great all the time.
“He was good. I think the expectations for him are off the charts. You look at that and you say a young guy doing that his first official game is pretty good.”
Richaud Pack, the senior transfer, started alongside Trimble and had to play more point guard then planned when the freshman got into a little foul trouble in the first half. Pack finished with eight points and six rebounds and was 2-of-2 behind the arc, both in the opening salvo that salted the game away early.
“I thought Richaud Pack really had a terrific game for us,” added Turgeon. “Just solid. He hadn’t played point guard since high school. He did a lot. I thought he was terrific on both ends.”
The Terrapins raced out to an 8-0 lead and were never headed. They led by 26 at the half and by 38 with just under seven minutes to go.
“We were just locked in from the beginning,” said Pack, who learned he was starting 10 minutes before the tip-off. “That’s what we said in our first huddle – this game is about defense. Defense led to a pretty good offensive performance in the first half, too.”
The Seahawks shot just 26.9 percent (18-of-67) for the game, and were just 3-of-23 from 3-point range (13 percent). They had only seven field goals in the first half.
“I felt like our defense was okay,” said Wells. “I think we can do a lot better but that’s just me being me.”
Wagner coach Bashir Mason probably wouldn’t want to hear that assessment. “I think we were just a little overwhelmed with the size and athleticism,” he said. “The Maryland team is very talented.”
Maryland improved to 23-0 all-time against Northeast Conference foes, and to 78-17 in home openers in College Park. This was the 38th straight such victory, dating back to a loss to Notre Dame in 1975.
The Terrapins next host Central Connecticut State Monday at 7:30, part of this three-game homestand to tip-off the 2014-15 season. Maryland has Fordham coming in next Thursday.
The Terrapins steamed out to 15-3 lead in just over nine minutes versus Wagner. Pack had two 3-pointers and Wells a couple of baskets, including a thunderous dunk. The big story, though, was the Maryland defense, which limited the Seahawks to 24.1 percent (7-of-29) shooting in the first half, including a horrid 1-for-14 start that dug the early hole.
Then Wagner, which finished 19-12 a year ago, got just three field goals over the last eight minutes of the first half as Maryland spurted out again. The Terrapins scored 20 of the last 26 points of the half. One sequence typified their effort – shooting 51.9 percent and 6-of-10 from three – in the first half. After every Terp touched the ball at least once, Layman ended up at the top of the key, the defense spread wide. He made a fake and put the ball on the floor, getting to the basket for a dunk, Maryland’s final points of the half to make it 43-17, also the Terrapins’ biggest lead to that point.
“This team, that’s what coach wants from us, to make that extra pass,” said Layman. “That play just really showed everyone that we’re all willing to do that, and it ended up a dunk.”
That play came just two possessions after Wells took a nasty spill on the offensive end, and lay on the floor for a couple of minutes as team trainer Matt Charvat attended to him, Turgeon came out to check the severity and the Xfinity crowd of 10,015 held its collective breath.
At half, it was announced Wells suffered a left ankle sprain but the senior started the second half, and scored on a strong move to the basket the first time he touched the ball.
“He hasn’t gone down like that all year, even in practice,” said Turgeon. “The way he went down I thought it was something much worse. He has a bad ankle. He tweaks it once out of every three days. He’s fine.”
Wells and Trimble each had nine points at the half. Eight of the ten Terps who played in the first half scored, the two exceptions, big men Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd, neither of whom started.
Dodd would finish with six points and eight rebounds, and could have had a heftier line except for trouble at the free throw line. He was 4-of-8 there. Cekovsky had three points and three rebounds, and like Dodd, had two blocked shots, part of six for the team.
Maryland, despite the modest low-post game, shot 27-of-41 at the free throw line (65.9 percent). Wagner got just 18 free throws, hitting nine.
Nolan Long, a hard-working big man had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Seahawks and pointed out some deficiencies in the Terrapins’ interior defense. Maryland won on the boards, 44-35, but Wagner hauled in 17 offensive rebounds.
“It’s what we’ve got to correct,” said Turgeon. “Give them credit. They crash it and they push you and shove you. Probably the disappointing ones are the ones they chase down that we didn’t chase, where we got shoved under.”
Turgeon opted for a small lineup to start the game with Jon Graham and Layman up front and Wells, Pack and Trimble in the backcourt. While Maryland may have sacrificed inside on the defensive end, the Seahawks had particular difficulty guarding the inside-out game of Layman, who had five assists to go with five points in the first half.
“I think it was me being aggressive and driving the ball,” said Layman of his offensive success. “It opened up other guys for me to see and that’s where a lot of my assists came.”
Graham was again a spark despite a modest 3-points, 3-rebounds stat line. He was on the floor after loose balls and set picks to free up shooters. Freshmen Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens had moments, too. Wiley chipped in eight points and an assist, and Nickens had five points, and assist and a block.
Varun Ram (2 points) got six minutes and Spencer Barks (2 rebounds) and Jacob Susskind also saw action.
The Twittersphere lit up with questions about a mystery man at the end of the Maryland bench. He’s a late addition to the team, walk-on Trevor Anzmann, a 5-11, 170-pound native of Westminter, Md. He will wear No. 12.
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