What We Learned After Iowa

Maryland fell to Iowa 71-55 Feb. 7. Here are five observations from the game in Iowa City.

Maryland fell to Iowa 71-55 Feb. 7. Here are five observations from the game in Iowa City.

Road Woes Continue

With the loss Feb. 8, Maryland has now dropped three straight road games by at least 16 points. The Terps are 2-4 in Big Ten affairs away from Xfinity Center and haven’t recorded a road victory since knocking off Purdue Jan. 10.

During this three-game slide, with losses at Ohio State, Indiana and Iowa, UMD has turned the ball over an average of 13 times; averaged 40.6 percent shooting; been out-rebounded in all three games, including twice by 10 or more; been kept under 60 points twice; and allowed opponents to average 57 percent from the field and 3-point range.

The stat line from the Iowa game alone was not a pretty sight. Offensively, the Terps connected on just 36.7 percent of their shots (18 of 49), including 25 percent in the first half. They were 30.4 percent from distance (7 of 23), turned the ball over 16 times (12 in the first half) and recorded just 10 assists. Defensively, Maryland allowed the Hawkeyes to connect on 64.3 percent of their attempts (45.5 percent from deep), while the Terps were out-rebounded 30-19.

The half-court sets lacked imagination or flow as UMD struggled to solve Iowa’s zone. Instead of driving and dishing, or using creative backdoor screens, the Terps merely jacked up contested 3-pointers, or relied on a typical high-ball screen, which the Hawkeyes quickly figured out.

Maryland’s offense looked lost at the outset that during one stretch the Terps turned the ball over on five straight possessions. Senior wing Dez Wells had five first-half miscues and six overall, while Melo Trimble had four cough-ups. (Once again, Wells tried to take over, slashing to the hoop instead of working within the offense and moving the ball). And it certainly didn’t help that Jared Nickens (0-for-3), Dion Wiley (1-for-5) and Richaud Pack (1-for-5) were throwing up long jumpers like they were Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson.

It was arguably an even rougher performance defensively. Iowa basically dictated the tempo and got whatever shot they wanted each possession. The Hawkeyes, orchestrated by point guard Mike Gesell (nine assists), moved the all so quickly and efficiently that Maryland’s defenders looked slow and unathletic.

Center Adam Woodbury (16 points) owned Maryland’s big men inside, dominating Evan Smotrycz, Michal Cekovsky Damonte Dodd. Forward Aaron White (17 points) pretty much broke down Jake Layman throughout, while Peter Jok (15 points) did the same to Dez Wells, Richaud Pack, Nickens and Wiley.

Has Anyone Seen Layman?

It’s been a rough stretch for Terps junior forward Jake Layman to say the least. Arguably Maryland’s best player for a stretch earlier this season, he’s gone into a funk the last two weeks, especially offensively.

Against Iowa, he attempted just four shots and made one of them, finishing with four points on the night. On top of that, he had just two rebounds and four fouls. This from a guy who was averaging more than 14 points a night and seven boards.

Layman played a Big Ten-season-low 21 minutes Feb. 8, and although foul trouble had something to do with that, head coach Mark Turgeon may have sat him for a spell due to ineffectiveness.

There was one stretch during the first half where he was beaten off the dribble on back-to-back possessions, looking tired and out of position. Then, during the second half, with Maryland behind 44-21, Layman missed a layup and then compounded the problem by committing a touch foul 20 seconds later.

This continues a trend that’s gone on since Maryland beat Northwestern Jan. 25. In the last four games, Layman hasn’t shot better than 42 percent from the floor, and has canned just three 3-pointers. He hasn’t met his season scoring average since his 23-point outburst against Michigan State Jan. 17.

Defensively, Layman typically flashes sticky fingers and some toughness underneath, but he hasn’t had more than one steal since Jan. 25, while he was routinely pushed around underneath against Iowa. His two rebounds Feb. 8 were a season low.

Wiley, Nickens Struggle

Maybe they’ve hit the freshmen wall, but neither Dion Wiley nor Jared Nickens have done much to inspire confidence of late. Neither is known as a lockdown defender, which is why they’ve been on the bench for long stretches this season, but at least Mark Turgeon could count on them to knock down a shot once in awhile.

Both noted 3-point specialists, the pair combined to go 1-for-8 from distance in a combined 31 minutes against Iowa. Wiley has connected on just four total treys the last five games, while Nickens hasn’t hit a triple since the Ohio State bout, going scoreless against both Iowa and Penn State.

Wiley, for his part, made some iffy decisions against the Hawkeyes. On one occasion he fired up a 3 right out of a timeout instead of working the ball around, and another time he put up a contested jumper just nine seconds into the shot clock.

Nickens also threw up a contested shot or two, but what’s more frustrating is his failure to knock down his open jumpers. He had one wide-open shot in the corner and another good look from the elbow, drawing iron on both attempts.

With those two struggling to connect, guard Richaud Pack, who usually starts over both, took it on himself to pick up the slack Feb. 8. And that’s not a recipe for success as Pack shoots just 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from beyond the arc. Against Iowa, Pack forced up eight shots and a team-high-tying five treys, hitting only one of them.

Trimble Toughs It Out

The Terps were beaten and bloodied Feb. 8 -- and freshman point guard Melo Trimble quite literally so. By the time the game ended, Trimble’s face resembled Michael Spinks’ post Mike Tyson 1991 heavyweight title fight, first taking a camera to the nose after falling over a chair and then getting poked in the eye by Adam Woodbury.

But despite a swollen eye and a bloody nose, Trimble still managed to play a team-high 30 minutes. Not only that, but he was really the only effective offensive threat all game. The Terps trailed 40-17 at halftime, and 13 of Maryland’s 17 points came courtesy of the freshman point guard. He wound up shooting 7-of-12 from the field for a game-high 20 points, adding three assists and a steal as well.

Now, it wasn’t all roses for Trimble, however. He did turn the ball over four times and made a couple poor passes. He also committed four fouls and didn’t exactly play his best half-court defense on counterpart Mike Gesell (eight points, nine assists).

But considering the scoring rut Trimble had been in the previous two games, Turgeon and Co. will take the offensive outbreak. Recall, ever since Trimble poured 27 points on Northwestern, he hasn’t had a single field goal. He was 0-of-8 from the floor at Ohio State and 0-of-5 against Penn State, scoring seven points all from the charity stripe. Against Iowa, though, he broke down the defense, converted over the trees and even nailed 3-of-4 triples, one from way beyond the arc.

If there was one positive to take from this game, it was Trimble’s return to form. Needless to say, UMD is going to need him to put up points down the stretch in the Big Ten.

Ram, Graham Provide A Spark

For the first time in Big Ten play, little-used point guard Varun Ram saw more than just a mop-up minute Feb. 8. With the Terps down by 21 points and about to be run out of Iowa City, a fed up Mark Turgeon pulled Melo Trimble and inserted the walk-on with just over 13 minutes in the game.

Ram ended up playing five total minutes, but he certainly made the most of his limited action, coming up with three steals. More importantly, his energy seemed to spark a stagnant, listless Terps squad, which turned up the intensity with a full-court press and began toughening up inside. (Maryland actually drew to within six points midway through the half before the Hawkeyes solved the press and pulled away again).

Graham, meanwhile, may have been the only Terp who showed much grit underneath. While Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky, Evan Smotrycz and even Jake Layman couldn’t deal with Adam Woodbury, Jarrod Uthoff or a slashing Aaron White, Graham at least attempted to bang inside and front Woodbury.

Graham (two points) didn’t have another offensive explosion like against Penn State, but he tied a team high with four rebounds and also had a block in 20 minutes. When the Terps looked down and out during the second half, trailing 53-38, Graham out-muscled an Iowa player for inside position; hit the offensive glass following a missed Ram jumper; and converted a put-back.

After the bucket, Graham had a ticked off look on his face, maybe a positive considering the body language his teammates were giving off at times during the contest.

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