What We Learned After Iowa State

Maryland (5-0) defeated No. 12 Iowa State, 72-63, Nov. 25, giving the Terps’ their second victory in as many days. With the win, UMD claimed the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo. Here are five observations from Maryland’s win over the Cyclones:

Maryland (5-0) defeated No. 12 Iowa State, 72-63, Nov. 25, giving the Terps’ their second victory in as many days. With the win, UMD claimed the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo. Here are five observations from Maryland’s win over the Cyclones:

Young Trees Banging Inside

During the weeks leading up to the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said he probably wouldn’t play sophomore power forward Damonte Dodd and freshman center Michal Cekovsky on the floor at the same time. Both were raw in respective areas, especially offensively, Turgeon surmised, and it wouldn’t behoove the Terps to have two unpolished big men in there together.

But for spates against Arizona State, and for large portions of the Nov. 25 affair against Iowa State, both Dodd and Cekovsky not only excelled individually, but playing together as well. Going against a smaller, but quicker, Iowa State squad, the 7-foot Slovenian and the 6-10 Centreville, Md., native made life miserable for Cyclones forward Dustin Hogue (3 points, 1-of-8 from the floor) and Georges Niang (10 points, 4-of-14 from the field).

Dodd, one night after securing five offensive rebounds and a couple put-back buckets, had four more second-chance points Nov. 25 thanks to a pair of easy second-opportunity tip-ins. But it was his work in the lane, offering help-side defense and forcing Iowa State to kick the ball back out, that made him valuable. Although Dodd got into early foul trouble, he showed more physicality than he had in the past, establishing his presence by immediately blocking a shot that led to a transition bucket.

Dodd only scored four points while securing five rebounds, but what made him effective won’t show up in the box score. A liability at times defensively last year, the Nov. 25 game was perhaps his best as a rim protector.

Cekovsky, meanwhile, continued to build off his strong effort against Arizona State. The developing center had four second-chance points thanks to three offensive rebounds, and also recorded a nifty assist on a high-low play that resulted in a first-half Jake Layman slam.

But, like Dodd, Cekovsky was an absolute force defensively. He ended up with eight rebounds and two blocks, while altering countless shots underneath. His play early in the second half allowed Maryland to extend its lead to double-digits and ultimately cruise to a victory.

At the outset of the latter frame, Cekovsky went toe-to-toe with Iowa State’s best player, Georges Niang. Cekovsky out-muscled the smaller forward for a rebound and then drew a foul when Niang tried to swipe the ball away. A couple minutes later, Cekovsky recorded his second block when he stuffed a streaking Cyclone, who went hard to the hoop.

Iowa State didn’t score a field goal for the first five-plus minutes of the second half, and much of that was because Cekovsky denied the Cyclones any easy looks at the rim.

Stellar Ball Movement

Those that know hockey talk about the pass that led to another pass that led to the goal. In basketball, there can only be one assist awarded per possession, but if stat guys gave out hockey assists Nov. 25, Maryland probably would have doubled its 13 dimes.

One of the most noticeable areas of improvement this year has been the Terps’ unselfish play and crisp ball movement, and it’s one of the main reasons they knocked off No. 13 Iowa State.

The Terps didn’t turn the ball over once in the game’s first 12 minutes, while building an eight-point lead less than nine minutes in thanks to Melo Trimble, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, Jared Nickens and Michal Cekovsky actively moving the ball around and sometimes passing up solid looks in order to find a wide open teammate.

With just over 11 minutes to go, Cekovsky received a pass in the paint, but kicked the ball out to Layman on the wing. Layman passed up an OK shot, however, and fed Trimble, who drilled an uncontested trey to put UMD up 23-16.

Later in the half, Trimble drove the lane, but rather than force up a shot, he kicked the ball to Nickens,. The latter then executed a no-look touch pass to Wells at the elbow, who drained an open three that stalled Iowa State’s momentum and gave Maryland a 35-31 advantage.

Then, in the second half, Nickens sliced into the paint before bouncing a pass to Trimble, who flicked the ball to an open Dion Wiley for a corner triple. That put UMD up by 10, 46-36, and effectively sucked the life out of Iowa State.

For the game, Wells led the way with four assists, Trimble and Layman had two each, while Cekovsky and Nickens had one, but it was those hidden hockey assists that spurred Maryland’s offense. There’s a reason the Terps shot 44 percent and 42 percent from 3-point range, and it wasn’t just because UMD’s sharpshooters were “feeling it.”

Mr. Clutch

Freshman Jared Nickens scored 15 points Nov. 25, and 11 of them, including a trio of dagger threes, came directly after Iowa State had scored and seemingly seized some momentum. Nickens, who entered the game off the bench for an ineffective Richaud Pack, ended up playing 20 minutes and shooting 6-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-7 from deep. He also effectively moved the ball around and had one huge assist.

Playing with unbridled confidence and plenty of swagger, the freshman drained a few shots befitting of an ice-in-the-veins veteran. When the Cyclones cut the lead to 27-25 with 5:36 left in the first half, Nickens, who literally just came off the bench, drained a three from the wing, extending the advantage to five. Three minutes later, after Iowa State drew to within 32-31, Nickens took his man off the dribble before finding Dez Wells in the corner for an open trey.

But it was Nickens’ second-half shooting that spurred Maryland Nov. 25. In crunch time, when many younger players tend to wilt, this Jersey product displayed uncanny mettle for a first year.

First, Iowa State’s Dustin Hogue drilled a deep shot seven minutes in, but Nickens answered with a 15-footer to put Maryland back up nine, 48-39. Then, after Monte Morris made the score 48-43 in favor of UMD, Nickens came around on a curl, took a pass from Damonte Dodd, and nailed a falling-back three from the top of the key, silencing the pro-Iowa State crowd.

The Cyclones immediately answered with a triple of their own, but Nickens was game. He coolly knocked down yet another three -- in George Niang’s face at that -- to put the Terps up 54-46.

Layman Becomes A Man

Terps junior Jake Layman has been criticized at times for his defense, but Nov. 25 against Iowa State the stretch-4’s length and anticipation gave the Cyclones fits. Layman didn’t have a steal and didn’t record a block, but he was one of the reasons Cyclones forward Dustin Hogue shot just 1-of-8 from the field.

Although he was out-physicaled a couple times, Layman also did fairly well picking up Iowa State’s Bryce Dejean-Jones when the latter tried to drive the lane. Layman forced him into several contested shots, and when UMD’s forward got into foul trouble and had to be removed, that’s primarily when Dejean-Jones (17 points) did his damage as the Terps no longer had the size advantage.

Moreover, Layman hit the boards hard and ended up with six rebounds, five on the defensive end. The Terps had been called out for not boxing out this year, but Layman, barring one or two instances, did well clearing the glass and ripping down rebounds.

Offensively, Layman continued to assert himself in his new role as a stretch-4. He threw down one monster dunk to put Maryland up 27-23, and stepped outside to can a pair of three-pointers. He ended up with 15 points of 4-of-8 shooting.

But perhaps most impressively was Layman’s work from the line. A 64-percent free-throw shooter coming in, Layman helped secure the victory by nailing 5-of-7 foul shots with less than five minutes remaining in the game.

Seniors Stall

The freshmen and underclassmen basically carried Maryland Nov. 25 against Iowa State as two of the Terps’ seniors struggled for long stretches, including Jon Graham and Richaud Pack.

Pack, who Mark Turgeon called Maryland’s “best player” after the first three games, crashed back to earth Nov. 25. The North Carolina A&T transfer had his most difficult game in a Terps uniform, scoring two points on a pair of free throws and shooting 0-of-3 from the field. Not to mention he had a couple costly mental errors as well.

Early in the game, the Terps were taking too many quick shots, and two of them came courtesy of the normally reliable senior guard. At the six-minute mark, Pack tried to cross up his man and hoist up a contested 17-footer seconds into the shot clock. The ball barely drew iron, and an infuriated Turgeon immediately yanked Pack and inserted Jared Nickens.

And with Nickens playing well, Pack didn’t return until the second half. But with the Terps trying to close out the game up 60-50, Pack failed to properly secure a transition pass and was then whistled for a carry.

Graham, meanwhile, struggled for the second consecutive night, ceding time to both Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd. The 6-9 forward started off well enough with two nice paint moves that led to a pair of easy buckets, but after that the senior lost his mojo.

Graham picked up a couple cheap fouls early trying to guard Georges Niang, while he looked lost at times defensively, an area where he normally excels. During the second half, with the Terps attempting to pull away, a Cyclone big man backed Graham down in the paint, executed a drop-step, and spun by the Baltimore native for an easy deuce.

Which was really the story of Graham’s night. Normally aggressive and physical in the lane, he looked out of step at times, failing to move his feet and bobbling a few boards he normally corrals. In limited action, Graham ended with just one rebound all night.

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