What We Learned After Purdue

No. 11 Maryland (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) went into West Lafayette, Ind., and knocked off Purdue, 69-60, Jan. 10. Here are five observations we took away from the effort:

No. 11 Maryland (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) went into West Lafayette, Ind., and knocked off Purdue, 69-60, Jan. 10. Here are five observations we took away from the effort:

Terps Hit The Glass In Second Half

After being out-rebounded 22 to 15 and allowing Purdue numerous second-chance opportunities during the first 20-plus minutes, the Terps buckled down and hit the boards in the second half. Some of that had to do with Boilermakers’ big men Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons picking up their fourth fouls, but UMD deserves credit for matching Purdue’s physicality and toughness down low.

After Purdue cut the lead to 31-30 four minutes into the second half, Maryland allowed just one second-chance bucket the rest of the way. They ended up out-boarding the Boilermakers 17-16 in the second half, giving up only three offensive rebounds in the final 16 minutes (Purdue had 15 overall).

Curiously, it was actually Terps wing Dez Wells and stretch-4 Jake Layman who did the dirty work, while the UMD bigs took a backseat. Wells recorded four big rebounds between the trees during the latter 20 minutes, while Layman had three boards and three blocks.

Wells is known for his physical play, but Layman’s brought an increased toughness this year in his transition to the 4-spot. His length has given numerous foes problems, and Jan. 10 he put forth a yeomen’s effort cutting off drivers, face-guarding his man, and out-muscling Purdue on the glass.

During one telling sequence, with Maryland up 57-50, Layman stuffed Jon Octeus at the rim, and after an offensive rebound, the Boilermakers ended up turning the ball over, drawing a technical foul in the process. Melo Trimble then extended the lead to 59-50, and Purdue didn’t get closer than six points the rest of the way

Wells, meanwhile, was intense throughout the affair, sometimes to a fault. He had a couple out-of-control plays during the first frame, including a turnover during a drive and a missed dunk. But Wells brought it defensively, his hands active, his fingers sticky and his physicality front and center. With 2:10 remaining, Wells fought through the lane, boxed out his man and hauled in a huge rebound with a Purdue player hanging all over him.

Wells ended up with 13 points, two steals, seven rebounds and four assists, while Layman had 14 points, eight rebounds, two steals and three blocks.

Terps Push The Tempo

Purdue figured to be a tough test for Maryland, in more ways than one. The Boilermakers are known for their deliberate, grind-it-out style, typically winning the rebounding battle and routinely pounding the paint.

And, really, that’s ultimately how the game played out, both teams engaging in a slugfest, with Maryland matching Purdue’s intensity and figuring out a way to win in a raucous environment.

But the Terps also pushed the tempo every chance they had, running the floor and tiring out the Boilermakers’ bigs Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons. Dez Wells came out like a wild man, racing the floor and slicing down the lane with reckless abandon (it resulted in a turnover and missed dunk). Richaud Pack nailed a triple in transition to put UMD up 13-4, Melo Trimble canned a deep three off the break to make it 10-4, and even Jared Nickens got into the act to open up the second half with a quick trey off a Dez Wells feed.

At times, Maryland’s offense lacked rhythm, the ball movement/spacing was poor, and UMD seemed content to jack up quick threes. For the game, the Terps ended up shooting just 37.5 percent and 30 percent from three. But thanks to their transition game, the Terps were able to put up points, either through open jumpers or drawing fouls (they were 27-of-31 from the line) on their way to the rim.

Graham Quietly Steps Up

With Damonte Dodd picking up three quick first-half fouls (and four overall), and Michal Cekovsky getting hit with two of his own, Maryland turned to Jon Graham to hold down the low post. Graham ended up playing more than half the game, and his numbers were rather pedestrian (two points, one rebound, one steal, one block), but his toughness in the paint can’t be overlooked. Graham actively fronted Purdue’s 7-foot-2 horse Isaac Haas, fighting for inside position and denying him the ball. He also did a good job offering help-side defense on center A.J. Hammons and other Boilermakers who worked into the lane.

Granted, Graham missed a couple box outs and probably should have had a few defensive rebounds he wasn’t properly positioned for, but his intensity seemed to spark the Terps and set the tone with Dodd and Cekovsky riding pine.

With the score tied at 24 late in the first half, Graham knifed into the lane off a Jake Layman missed free throw and snagged an offensive board. He fed the ball right back to Layman, who drew yet another foul, canning a pair of free throws.

Graham also came up with a key block when Jon Octeus drove the lane, the Terps’ center denying him at the rim.

(It should be noted that Cekovsky played relatively well until picking up his fouls. He showed off a nifty drop step and drive for a layup during the first half, and later altered an A.J. Hammons shot).

A Wiley Sighting

Talk about an unsung hero. Freshman guard Dion Wiley put together one of his most effective games this year by scoring nine points on 3-of-5 shooting, dropping two dimes, coming up with a block and snaring a rebound as well. He hit both his free throws and drilled his lone three-point attempt as well.

Earlier this year, Wiley seemed like he’d rather hang outside the arc and look for his shot, but he’s shown signs of adding another element to his game as the Big Ten schedule moves along. Wiley has proven he can break his man down off the dribble, drive the lane and convert at the rim, which will eventually force defenders to sag off.

At the 7:32 mark, Wiley took a pass at the left elbow, gave a hard jab step to his right, blew by his man to the inside, and finished with a layup. Then in the second half, Wiley pulled the same trick, and this time drew a foul and knocked down both free throws. (Wiley also nailed a huge three-pointer on a neat inside-out play, giving UMD a 38-32 lead).

Wiley didn’t just do the job scoring, either. He found Richaud Pack for an open trey in transition during the first six minutes of the game, and later found a cutting Jake Layman for a layup to make the score 48-42 Maryland. His passing and feel for the offense has improved as the year has moved along as well.

Smotrycz Struggles

The likes of Graham and Layman stepped up inside, but, Evan Smotrycz, forced to play extended minutes with the Terps racking up fouls right and left, struggled Jan. 10. The Maryland forward looked a step or two slow defensively throughout, didn’t bring the same fierceness his teammates did, missed some wide-open looks offensively, and made a couple questionable decisions as well.

Smotrycz had his pocket picked by Kendall Stephens early, missed an easy layup with no defenders around him late during the second half, jacked up two quick threes instead of working the ball around early, and failed to contain Purdue’s Rapheal Davis (12 points on 4-of-7 shooting) throughout.

With the score 15-11, Smotrycz couldn’t get into position to cut off Davis, who drove right by him for a layup. Smotrycz then compounded the problem by fouling him, allowing Davis to net a three-point play.

Granted, Smotrycz did have a couple positive sequences, headlined by his back-to-back offensive rebounds and two-point tip-in at the 6:41 mark of the second half. He also came up with a first-half steal of Jon Octeus, leading to two Melo Trimble free-throws at the opposite end.

Smotrycz ended up with two points on 1-of-6 shooting, with one turnover, one steal, and five rebounds.

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