COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland’s young basketball team answered another question Dec. 6. Coming off their first loss of the season, how would the Terrapins respond?
Well, with an 82-62 victory over Winthrop at the Xfinity Center before 9,345 fans that ran Maryland’s record to 8-1. After six games in 13 days, the Terrapins can ease off the gas a little and do what coach Mark Turgeon really wants – practice.
“I told the team that’s the best we’ve played since (upsetting No. 13) Iowa State,” said coach Mark Turgeon. “With where we are right now, to do what we did, I was really proud of our guys.”
Proud, that is after the first four minutes, when 21st-ranked Maryland fell behind and Turgeon quickly scrapped plans to play big and pound the ball inside against Winthrop (3-4) of the Big South Conference.
Jake Layman, who scored a season-high 21 points, was a big fan of the smaller lineup that got the Terrapins rolling. “It created some match-up problems and let us spread the floor a little more,” said Layman, who had 18 points in the second half. “It kind of gets our offense flowing with a little more movement.”
Maryland trailed by nine in the first half, maybe a little hangover from that loss to No. 7 Virginia still rattling around in the collective Terrapin psyche, but once Maryland started scoring, everything fell into place.
“I thought we played at a high level,” said Trugeon. “I thought we played better in a lot of phases. We got better defensively, our ball-screen defense got better, our team defense got better. Our recognition of plays got better, how to guard screens got better. And then the second half, I thought we really executed (offensively).”
“It was big for us,” said Layman. “We kept telling the young guys that one loss was not the end of the world, especially against a good team like UVA. But we needed to stay focused and take care of business like we’re supposed to.”
Center Damonte Dodd, who Turgeon called to the sideline and implored to play better after those opening minutes, agreed. “It was real important because we were all upset after we lost to UVA. Our heads were down and we came and practiced really hard and got after it. The energy in the locker room before this game was unbelievable.”
For the record, Dodd did play better, registering career highs of nine points and 10 rebounds to go with three blocks and two assists. The 55-percent free throw shooter was even 5-of-6 at the line.
“I just try to stay near the basket and do what the team needs,” said Dodd. “I knew it was our night when we got that backdoor (his pass to Richaud Pack) in the second half. You don’t get many backdoors in college basketball.”
The Terps really couldn’t get going before Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley came off the bench to give them a lift. “We started off slow and Coach Turgeon was relying on me to come in and provide a spark so that’s what I did,” said Nickens, who had 12 points, including a team-high eight in the first half. “We had confidence. Coach Turgeon always talks about trusting the system and play within the system, and that’s what we did.”
The Terrapins needed that confidence because they couldn’t put much distance between themselves and the Eagles much of the second half. When Keon Moore scored backdoor from Xavier Cooks at 10:56, Winthrop was within 52-46.
Maryland ran off the next seven points, though, starting with two Layman free throws at 10:02. Pack drove in for a layup, and Nickens nailed a three at 8:48, to make it 59-46.
Maryland would lead 66-50 at 7:59 on a strong drive by Layman.
Layman had his ninth straight double-digit scoring game, to go with six rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. He moved to power forward in the game’s opening minutes after the Terrapins tried to go big and pound the ball inside. Turgeon lauded his swingman’s versatility and increased value with seniors Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz both out with injuries.
“He’s the one guy on that roster that played significant minutes last year,” Turgeon said of Layman. “He’s a guy we’ve got to rely on quite a bit.”
Maryland was 29-of-35 at the line(82.9 percent), making a conscientious effort to go inside against the smaller Eagles, including 5-7 guard Keon Johnson, and 5-10 Andre Smith. Of course, Johnson, who had 18 points, showed why he was in the lineup and Winthrop’s Keon Moore had 20 points and some remarkable shots. Both sharpshooters had four 3-pointers, part of a 9-for-27 afternoon by the visitors behind the arc.
Nifty passing, shooting and good spacing aside, the Eagles could never get closer than 11 points the rest of the way after the lead reached 16. Johnson hit a 3-pointer, and then Jarad Scott scored inside and was fouled. He missed the free throw but the Eagles had scratched back to 66-55.
Layman, now having his way on the low block with Xavier Cooks, got two more free throws – he was 11-of-14 at the line – and when Melo Trimble dropped a three in, it was 71-55 with 4:06 remaining. Trimble had a quiet 16 points to go with a career-high seven assists.
“Everybody is trying to stop Melo,” said Turgeon. “Melo came off a double screen and had three guys on him.”
That kind of attention opened things up for Layman, and Pack, who had 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Wiley had six points and blocked two shots. The Terrapins had seven blocked shots on the day, and reflective of that improved offense in the second half, finished with 10 turnovers, only one in the final 20 minutes.
“We talked about throwing the ball inside, trying to get fouled and take advantage of our size; we tried it for four minutes and it didn’t work,” said Turgeon. “We went small and became a much better offensive team, scored 82 points the last 36 minutes against a good team that’s well-coached.”
The Terrapins scored the game’s final seven points to account for their largest margin, including a 3-pointer by Layman after Maryland ran the shot clock down and beat a trap on the ball to find the 6-9 shooter wide open.
“It felt good to hit one to seal the deal,” he said.
Turgeon said the team would take Sunday off, then begin preparation for North Carolina Central coming in Wednesday, and USC Upstate, upset winner over Georgia Tech, coming in next Saturday, Dec. 13.
Turgeon said that he expected to have the “same roster” for those games, meaning Smotrcyz likely won’t be back from his foot injury for another two weeks. Wells, of course, is out with a broken wrist and not expected back until the end of the month. Without them, this win was even more crucial for the Terrapins.
“We needed to get ourselves together and bounce back,” said Nickens, noting Winthrop had already beaten Clemson this year. “They are not team to sleep on. We just needed to collectively stop them.”
And that wasn’t easy. Moore had hit two long 3-pointers early in the second half, the second at 18:28 to make the score 35-35.
The Terrapins went on a 10-2 run over the next four minutes. Layman hit a left-handed hook, and then Pack scored on a baseline drive and a layup on that feed from Dodd. Layman hit one of two at the line, and after missing four straight shots, Winthrop got a stickback from Tevin Prescott to make it 42-37.
Trimble scored from Dodd, the big center out high, feeding cutting guards. When Nickens hit one of two free throws at 14:25, the Terrapins had their largest lead to that point at 45-37.
“They just came out and were hitting everything,” said Dodd. “Those two little guards are good and fast. It’s just a different pace. We needed to make sure we guarded ball screens and things like that.”
Winthrop shot 36.2 percent (21-of-58), while Maryland connected on 47.8 percent (22-of-46), including 52.2 percent in the second half. Maryland also had a 37-26 rebounding advantage. Jon Graham didn’t score but had five rebounds.
After a 3-pointer by Johnson, Winthrop’s fourth of the first half, closed Maryland’s lead to 31-29, the Terps ran off the last three points of the half, Trimble hitting a pull-up, and then Dodd converting one of two at the line.
In building a 34-29 halftime edge, Maryland was 9-of-11 at the line, penetrating to get things going when the offense struggled early. Winthrop hit all three of its free throws, shot 34.4 percent from the field and committed just five turnovers.
The Eagles built an early lead, getting 12 points off Maryland’s nine turnovers. The Terrapins got a lift from younger players to weather that storm. Nickens had those eight points in the first half, Trimble and Dodd, each with seven.
A three-point play by Wiley on a drive gave the Terrapins a 19-17 lead at 8:42, but the Eagles – now playing with some confidence after a solid start – weren’t going away. Cooks got a lay-up on a backdoor play and then hit two free throws next time down to make it 21-21, at 7:25.
The Terrapins ran off the next five points, Nickens scoring on a feed from Layman, and then Pack canning a three. Winthrop’s Josh Davenport got a three-point play in traffic to make it 26-24 at 4:46.
The Terrapins had four turnovers and three missed shots on their first seven possessions to get off to that bad start. Turgeon called timeout at 15:39, right after Johnson’s three-pointer put Winthrop ahead 5-0.
Enter Wiley and Nickens. Fifteen seconds later, Nickens drilled a baseline three but the Terrapins still couldn’t get going. Winthrop led 13-4 at 12:26, with Maryland hitting just one of the first seven shots the Terrapins took.
But Dodd got a dunk, and when Nickens hit another three, it was 13-9 at 11:38. Maryland found it’s defense, and on the other end, Trimble and Wiley were getting into the paint on the dribble and creating fouls.
When Pack hit a 3-pointer at 9:12, the Terrapins had their first lead at 16-15.
“What I told the team is that we got better today,” said Turgeon.
Terrapins Bounce Back, Wear Down Winthrop
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