Maryland (4-0) defeated Arizona State, 78-73, in the opening round of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 24. Here are five observations from the game:
Melo Shows Out
It was only fitting that Gary Williams, whose star freshman Joe Smith set the Maryland rookie single-game mark of 29 points to jump-start the Williams era way back when, was sitting courtside for last night's Maryland-Arizona State showdown in Kansas City at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, where Williams was inducted as part of the week's ceremonies. For Williams and Terps fans may have just seen the new “splash” freshman.
Prime time players come out when the bright lights are on, and Terrapin prized rookie point guard Melo Trimble backed up all the pre-season hype, eclipsing the former Terrapin power forward Smith's mark with a 31-point barrage in his first national game as a Terp, as Maryland finished a game that in recent seasons they simply couldn't thanks in part to the poised freshman.
In collecting a 78-73 win to improve to 4-0, Trimble led the way from start to finish, hitting 7-of-11 field goals, including 4-of-6 treys, but most importantly 13-of-14 free throws, including two with 17 seconds remaining, to pull Maryland away for good at 77-73.
Despite looking tense in the game's opening minutes, and clanking home a bricked trey, the night belonged to Trimble, who broke out of a mini two-game slump back home in two easy non-conference wins. Trimble was inspired and on-point throughout the night, getting the Terps into their offense and not forcing things. In 35 minutes of play, he totaled 18 first-half points, and never got outside himself beyond a few takes he could not finish among the trees. And he was reliable from the stripe, and in the clutch, something else that has avoided recent Terps guards.
It was a splendid game to watch for basketball-IQ starved Maryland observers, and Trimble provided a dagger with his top of the key trey with 3:30 to go to give the Terps a 69-68 lead in the back-and-forth contest. He also hit both free throws with 1:22 remaining to tie the game at 73, those points tying Smith's record, before his final two from the stripe broke the mark of one of the most beloved players of the Williams era.
Williams marveled of the Terps’ rookie lead guard's vision and awareness in the pregame, and Trimble certainly delivered in what may be a defining early game for the club, if this season is to go far.
Terps Survive Three-Point Deluge
The elephant in the room Nov. 24 in Maryland's big non-conference win over Arizona State was three-point defense, as the Sun Devils and Coach Herb Sendek's excellent ball movement/rotations, something he was known for back in the day at N.C. State, sent the Terps under withering fire most of the night.
In what had also been a bugaboo at times in the first three contests, Maryland gave up the uncontested three-ball too much, ASU dropping 14-of-27 on the night, more than half their made field goals (25) total. They didn't do much inside, but outside it was a buzz-saw almost from start to finish.
The Terps didn't mark the ASU marksmen, didn't get through or flash screens early, and later suffered in transition getting back off the break and catching shooters. The Sun Devils were led by Jonathan Gilling's 7-of-10 made treys for 21 points, while Bo Barnes knocked in 5-of-7 for 17 points and Gerry Blakes hit 2-of-5 and had 14 points. ASU shot 51.9 percent beyond the arc, with excellent form and rotation on some deep balls.
After getting some breathing room late with a four-point lead with just over 4 minutes to go, both Gilling and Barnes hit open threes for an 68-66 ASU lead with 4:02 left. It would take Melo Trimble's three-bomb counter, 30 seconds later, to get the Terps back in it, and ultimately over the top.
If Maryland has something to work on the most going forward, it is perimeter defense.
Bigs By Committee
Terps head man Mark Turgeon hinted at a possible shakeup amongst Maryland's "big-man by committee" rotation last week before the Fordham game, citing the emerging rim-protecting skills of sophomore Damonte Dodd and especially freshman Michal Cekovsky. And he backed those words up against ASU.
After starting the first game, senior Jon Graham logged just one minute of playing time last night and did not otherwise get a stat, while the tandem of Cekovsky and Dodd, while not always pretty, delivered what Turgeon had been looking for.
Leading a stout Terps interior defense throughout the night, Dodd came through with 6 points (on 3-of-5 shooting), 5 rebounds and most importantly 4 blocks, asserting himself inside and also altering some shots. Meanwhile, Cekovsky hit 3-of-6 shots for 6 points, 3 rebounds and 1 block, while looking more physical on the blocks with each passing game.
While neither are anywhere near polished or regular scoring threats with their backs to the baskets nor instinctive rebounders yet, Cekovsky gets more aggressive and assertive each night out, flashing a power move and finish Nov. 24 for his first bucket, while Dodd is the Terps quickest big off the floor and has good anticipation and timing as a shot swatter. He also got the lead out with a power two-handed jam along the baseline. He scored off a pretty dish inside from Richaud Pack to knot the game at 61-61 with 8:43 left, too. Both bigs kept ASU's offense mostly at bay -- as in outside launching treys all night -- with the inside clogged and few second-chance opportunities. 'Ceko' is moving his feet better and banging more, while bringing a bit more offense/moves out each night as an eager learner.
If they can give Turgeon more of that, mostly that rim-protecting while they develop all-around games, the two, along with Graham's toughness and savvy inside, could make for a good committee at Maryland's most problematic spot.
Pack Has Quiet But Important Game
The stat line read only 1 point in 31 minutes of play on 0-for-6 shooting from the field and 0-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc. Nothing compelling for sure; in fact kind of ugly.
But fifth-year senior transfer guard Richaud Pack, this year's version of Maryland's 'glue guy', did have 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and one of the game's more subtle, but compelling, plays with the contest hanging in the balance.
Pack, who no doubt will fill the stat sheet often this season despite forcing and clanking a few shots versus ASU, will do a lot of the dirty work as Mark Turgeon's self-described "junkyard dog."
On Nov. 24, with 8:43 to go and the Terps down two, from out of nowhere Pack slipped through among the ASU trees in the lane to nab an offensive rebound he had no right to, and dish it quickly to an open Damonte Dodd, who converted the easy layin for a 61-61 tie.
Pack, who seems to come from out nowhere often for rebounds, deflections, '50-50' balls and just about any dirty work Maryland needs, saved his only point for the game's last, hitting one of two free throws for the final 78-73 margin in the final ticks, but grabbing the board on the miss to wrap it up.
Another warrior type that will help senior Dez Wells in that department, the final stat line may often be deceiving this season for the versatile North Carolina A&T transfer.
Wells The Alpha Dog
There's no doubt who the alpha dog is in the Maryland basketball program, senior Dez Wells. And the big dog was fed better late than never Nov. 24.
After a slow start against ASU, and a quiet 8-point outing against Fordham last week, Wells took over when it mattered, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the second half to help will Maryland to the key early-season victory over the Sun Devils.
Wells shot just 7-of-18 from the field, but added 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, aiding a two-man game between him and Melo Trimble as they outscored ASU 7-0 down the final stretch to secure the victory.
Wells' isolation move for a one-hander inside the free throw line with 40 seconds remaining gave Maryland a 75-73 lead, while his strong follow with 1:56 left had knotted the game at 71-71 a minute before. And while he was clanking jumpers early, Wells was able to draw defenders and dish to Trimble twice in the early going for open buckets to stay involved.
Wells forced things and was off-balance early while pressing to get involved, but like the team, was able to finish a game they rarely did in the last few seasons. He also fed Dion Wiley (8 points) on one of his two three-point bombs, while those four 'dimes' of Wells' led the team in that category.
What We Learned After Arizona State
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