COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- On a day when the New Jersey Institute of Technology upset No. 17 Michigan, USC Upstate knocked off Georgia and Green Bay defeated No. 15 Miami, Terps fans had to be a tad worried when Winthrop tied Maryland at 35 early in the second half Dec. 6.
But after Eagles point guard Keon Moore drilled an Xfinity Center-silencing three to knot up the score, the Terps slowly but surely pulled away for an 82-62 victory.
Turtle backers can, in part, thank sophomore forward Damonte Dodd for staving off the mid-major’s upset bid.
With Maryland leading by just four, 39-35, the Centreville native held the ball high over his head at the top of the key. While fending off a pesky Eagles’ defender, Dodd spotted a cutting Richaud Pack, who had beaten his man backside. The 6-foot-10 big man then delivered a nifty bounce pass through the teeth of the Winthrop defense, hitting Pack in stride for an easy layup and a 41-35 advantage.
The Eagles never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
“We were all down after we lost to UVA,” said Dodd, who had arguably the Terps’ best all-around performance Dec. 6. “We knew we could’ve beat [the Cavaliers]. It felt good just to bounce back and get this win [Dec. 6].
“But I knew I was having one of my best games, because [Bino Ranson and other assistants] kept telling me on the bench. But I just try to stay humble and do what I do. They were saying like, ‘Keep getting rebounds, you’re almost at a double-double,’ but I really didn’t pay it [any] mind. I was like, ‘Alright, let’s keep it up and get this win.’”
The Terps got the win alright, but the team as a whole, and Dodd in particular, had a rather inauspicious start. The sophomore had the ball stolen in the first 30 seconds and then fumbled away another pass just two minutes later.
“I just said, ‘You’ve got to play better. You have to play better,’” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said he told Dodd after the miscues. “And he did. He came out, he was the first big [man] to really start playing well. He probably played 25 of the last 30 minutes.
“His defense was good, his recognition was good and his awareness was good. Then he got some things going offensively, he made free throws, which was good to see. He did a lot of really good things. He blocked three shots, but probably altered about four or five more, so he gave us a great presence at the rim when we did break down.
“This was his best game in his career so far... It was good to see Damonte have a game like that.”
While he only scored nine points, Dodd threw his muscle around (relatively speaking) on the defensive end, grabbing a career high 10 boards while recording a steal and three blocks. He’d been criticized previously for his defense and rebounding, so his play on that end was certainly a pleasant surprise for Maryland. Turgeon, who said Dodd has made major strides defensively, mentioned how the second-year forward has shown an increased willingness to “be great,” focusing on his ball-denying craft extensively during practice.
During one telling sequence late Dec. 6, Dodd shifted into the lane to cut off a driving Josh Davenport, denying the Winthrop wing an easy layup. The rejected shot caromed right to UMD forward Jake Layman, who streaked the length of the floor for a deuce and a 66-50 Maryland advantage.
Earlier in the bout, when Winthrop had tied it at 35, Dodd recorded back-to-back defensive rebounds that led directly to Richaud Pack scores.
“With the rebounding, I was making sure I hit a guy every time the ball went up,” Dodd said. “Coach was saying, ‘Hit bodies,’ and everyone was rebounding -- not just myself or Jon Graham. Everyone was rebounding, everyone was bodying up another guy.
“And with [my defense], most of the time I’m in the right places on defense, but I don’t talk enough. This game I was doing more talking, being more vocal, because we had to guard ball screens. [Winthrop] had these two little guys who were so quick. I had to make sure I was talking to let [my teammates] know about the ball screens and who was [coming off of them].”
Count Jake Layman as impressed with his frontcourt mate’s effort Dec. 6. The newly-minted “four” man, Layman said Dodd’s “D” and glass cleaning has improved markedly since the season’s outset.
“Everyone is doing a great job pumping confidence into [Dodd], letting him know [he’s] 6-11, he’s huge, [and] he should be getting every rebound out there. Tonight was great for him,” Layman said. “It was definitely his best game all year.”
Dodd didn’t just get it done on the defensive end, either. He may have only scored a pair of field goals on three attempts, but, somewhat shockingly, he canned 5-of-6 free throws. Which is saying something considering he’s lucky to hit one of two (he’s a 56 percent free-throw shooter).
On top of that, he racked up two assists to slashers Pack and Melo Trimble, while picking up a pair of offensive rebounds as well.
“[Dodd] had a couple turnovers early, but he was so much better with catching and getting fouled and getting to the foul line,” Turgeon said. “[Those were] things he couldn’t do last year. He would have dropped [the ball], fumbled it…he’s really worked hard at that. He actually has a good jumper; he just hasn’t had many opportunities to use it. So he’s coming.”
The big man laughed when informed of Turgeon’s comments.
“Yeah, I feel like I’m getting better, gaining confidence. But I try to play the way I’m supposed to, but I can shoot the ball,” Dodd said. “Not as well as everyone else on the team, but I can shoot it. If I’m open I’ll take it.”
While Dodd has been known to finish underneath at times, his passing and offensive rebounding had been suspect. And though he didn’t exactly resemble Tim Duncan as a big-man board clearer and dime dropper Dec. 6, Dodd certainly flashed potential in both areas.
Most notably his passing. Dodd said he’s spent ample time with assistant John Auslander working on ball-handling, passing and becoming more comfortable in the offense’s flow.
It definitely showed on the aforementioned thread-the-needle throw to Pack that gave UMD a 41-35 lead. Less than a minute after that play, Dodd found Trimble back door for another layup, which put the Terps up seven.
“On the one play, Richaud yelled out, ‘Damonte’ and he set his guy up and he went back door, and I just threw it,” Dodd said. “Then with Melo, I had to make sure [the defense] wasn’t paying attention. He had one on the other end where I could’ve hit him back door and didn’t, so I told him, ‘I’m going to hit you on the next one.’ And I did, and we got some things going.”
Meanwhile, Dodd credited Layman for helping him clear the offensive glass. The former explained how Layman’s versatility makes him a mismatch, and he can draw out the defense or command double-teams at times. That allows Dodd to position himself underneath so he can grab a missed shot or two.
Moreover, Dodd said he’s starting to learn how to defeat box outs by “slithering around” defenders who try to deny him the paint.
Against Winthrop, following a missed Pack three-pointer, Dodd knifed inside; skied for the rebound; snared the ball above the rim and threw down a thunderous dunk. After the game, he said it was the first putback in his Maryland career.
“Oh yeah, that felt good,” Dodd said. “That was really cool.”
Cool enough to draw plenty of postgame praise.
But Dodd and Co. know he needs more than one solid performance against Winthrop. The Big Ten schedule looms, and with it comes the league’s legion of big nasties.
“[Dodd] is getting tougher and tougher for us. And he’s going to have to be, going down the stretch against some bigger guys,” Layman said. “He still has a ways to go, but we like where he’s at right now. He’s getting better and better.”
Dodd Establishing A Presence In The Paint
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