COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Diamonds are forged under pressure.
How about being a freshman for the No. 3 team in the nation down 14 points in the second half and turning into the go-to guy? And on a Terrapin team chockfull of veteran stars, it was the “new guy,” Diamond Stone that led the charge.
The 6-11 freshman hit 6-of-7 shots, most at the most opportune of times, played improved defense, and finished with 12 points and five rebounds even though he didn’t start for the first time. Actually five Terrapins scored in double figures in Maryland’s 65-58 victory over winless Rider Nov. 20 at Xfinity Center in front of another sellout of 17,950.
“I just came in and tried to play my heart out,” said Stone who saw sophomore Michal Cekovsky start at center. “(Teammates) said’ just keep rolling, we’re following you.’ Everything started falling place.”
It was about time. Maryland (3-0) stayed undefeated and scored a big win against a team not named Georgetown, though the remnants of that huge, emotional victory on Nov. 17 seemed to hang in the air in this game, too.
Stone, who entered after about three minutes and played 19 total minutes, thought the problem was just in attacking Rider’s sticking 1-3-1 defense. “We were shooting too many jump shots, and that’s why people play zone, so you can shoot jump shots,” he said. “And so I think that once we started throwing the ball in, playing inside-out, that’s when we started being successful on the defensive end and the offensive end.”
The Terrapins looked flat much of the night until Stone got 10 of his points in the second half, about the same time coach Mark Turgeon threw the team into a 1-3-1 trap, and the Terrapins got some stops.
“I didn’t have us ready and we tried to make adjustments at halftime but we weren’t really paying attention,” said Turgeon. “We finally made them when we got down 14. I thought our defense down the stretch was great. We played the 1-3-1. Our ball-screen defense was better. We were really good defensively and I thought that was the difference. Diamond was terrific against the zone, kind of big-boyed them a little bit and kind of opened some things up.”
Turgeon has refused to call Stone a “freshman,” instead saying “new guy,” because the Terrapins can’t have him play like a rookie and go where they want to go this season. With about 16 minutes left, it didn’t look like Maryland was going anywhere.
Trailing by 14, the Terrapins finally showed some signs of life. Stone drove baseline and hit a layup in traffic to make it 43-31 with 16:19 to play. Jake Layman hit a tough 10-footer on the move and then the Terps got a turnover out of their trap. On the break, Sulaimon missed a pull-up but Stone followed with a dunk on the rebound to make it 43-35 at 13:13, a 6-0 run.
“Coach Turgeon told us there was no 14-point play,” said Layman. “He just said not to panic, not to give up.”
After a timeout, Jimmie Taylor hit a big three for Rider (0-3), but Maryland got one, too, from Jared Nickens. Nickens then got a steal out of the trap. He missed a three from the corner but Stone was there for the stickback to make it 46-40.
Stone scored inside again and then Nickens hit a floater to make it 46-44 at 9:37, the closest Maryland had been since the second half started.
“It was very impressive to see Diamond sit that long and come in and give us a spark like that, still have his confidence,” said Layman. “That’s going to be really important for him, to always have his confidence, keep attacking and keep scoring.”
Shawn Valentine got a dunk but Robert Carter, Jr. got inside the middle of Rider’s zone and got a three-point play to make it 48-47. Kahlil Thomas tipped in a shot for the Broncs, but then Melo Trimble penetrated the zone, scored on a scoop and was fouled. His free throw made it 50-50 with 5:59 remaining.
The Terrapins took their first lead, 52-50, at 5:28, on a Rasheed Sulaimon drive.
Rider’s Teddy Okereafor made two free throws at 4:09 to tie it back up, but Stone was back in and kept a possession alive with a rebound. In the offensive reset, he set a high screen for Trimble – something opponents should get used to – and Trimble drilled a three-pointer to put Maryland back in front at 3:25.
“I think that’s what separates us from other teams because we’re all great athletes, great players and we all can just play as one,” said Stone.
At the other end, Rider went inside to Thomas but Stone forced what looked like a travel but resulted in a missed shot. Trimble missed on the break but Layman stuck it back in at 2:54 to make it 57-52. Maryland, which had a 34-27 edge in rebounds, got 14 offensive boards and 23 second chance points.
Valentine, on his way to 12 points, hit two free throws, but then Stone made another big play. Trimble tried to dish off to him but Stone had turned his back, the ball bounced free at the free throw line but Stone calmly corralled it and made a move to get to the basket, hitting a scoop to make it 59-54.
Thomas got a big tip-in, and after a Layman 3-point miss, Thomas scored inside over Stone and Layman to make it 59-58 at 1:08, the last of his team-high 14 points.
Trimble hit two free throws and then Thomas missed a front end, Sulaimon coming up with the rebound. He missed both his free throws but noted rebounding machine Jake Layman came up with the offensive board. He was fouled and hit two free throws at 18.6 seconds to make it 63-58. Thomas missed again, another Layman rebound and two more free throws, and the Terrapins had survived.
“I felt like I’ve had a couple of those before in my career,” said Layman of the key offensive rebounds. “When the rebound goes long, just try and jump as high as I can and get my hand on it, and it worked out.”
Layman finished with 11 points and a season-high 11 rebounds on an off-shooting night when he was just 3-of-9, and missed all three of his 3-point attempts. Carter led the team with 12 points, but he had 10 in the first half. Sulaimon and Trimble also both had 11 points, and Nickens had a big five points, four rebounds and two assists off the bench.
Nickens also created some havoc out of the trap with those long arms. Turgeon said the Terrapins had worked on their 1-3-1 to use against Georgetown, but that the Hoyas had been shooting the ball too well from the perimeter. “We hadn’t practice it a lot. We practiced it enough where we’ve made adjustments to get comfortable. I felt we could run it against (Rider’s) lineup and be successful.
Layman was more succinct. “I think for us, we were so bad with our man defense we needed to switch it up and try something new. It definitely sparked us, and then the energy in the building got a lot better and we went on a big run.”
It was a 28-9 spree to put Maryland up for good, and let the team head off for the Cancun Challenge feeling good about themselves. Maryland plays Illinois State Nov. 24, and then either Rhode Island or TCU on Nov. 25. The next home game is Nov. 28 against Cleveland State.
The Terrapins picked up in the second half where they had left off in the first half, and that wasn’t a good thing. Thomas got inside for a three-point play to extend Rider’s lead, then after Trimble’s shot was blocked, Taylor scored in transition. Another Terp turover and Sadler hit a short turnaround to give the Broncs a 38-29 lead, equaling their largest margin.
Turgeon took a timeout and inserted Varun Ram. It didn’t help. Layman shot an air ball and at the other end Valentine hit a three over Layman’s outstretched reach. With 16:19 to play, Rider led Maryland 43-29, opening the second half with a 12-0 run.
“I think it was bad shot selection,” said Layman of the hole Maryland fell into a couple of times. “I think if we really focus on attacking the rim more, we’ll be more successful.”
Maryland had a little post-Georgetown hangover, playing sluggishly most of the first half and trailing by two at the intermission. Than things got worse.
The Terrapins had trailed by nine in the first half, and were down eight when they started to find their way. Carter hit one of two free throws then tipped in a Layman miss next time down. When Trimble found Sulaimon with a long pass down in the far corner, the senior transfer coolly canned a three to pull Maryland within 29-27 at 1:31, and force Broncs' coach Kevin Baggett to call timeout.
Taylor hit a clutch pull-up to push the lead back to four, and Turgeon called timeout with a minute left, looking to get a two-for-one in possessions. But Trimble threw the ball away, one of eight Terrapin turnovers, nearly all unforced.
The defense got a stop, another rarity, as Rider hit 14-of-28 shots and outrebounded Maryland for much of the half before the Terrapins came on late to lead that category 17-13 at the break.
Carter got a tip-in of a Trimble miss with three seconds left to make it 31-29 at half.
The Broncs had scored the first four points of the game, Okerafor and Lundy getting driving layups before Layman answered with a three-point play on a drive. The Terrapins missed four of their first five shots from the field, including two three-pointers from Carter.
Rider would run out to an early 11-5 advantage when Grant hit a jumper at 13:41, but 32 seconds later, the 6-8 Grant, the Broncs’ biggest starter, picked up his third foul and headed to the bench.
The Terrapins tied the game at 12 on a three-point play by Stone at 11:35, but Rider answered when Valentine scored on a lob and then hit a jumper at 9:32 to make it 18-13.
The pesky Rider 1-3-1 zone gave Maryland problems, the Terrapins just 1-of-7 behind the arc in the opening 15 minutes, and falling behind 24-17 at 6:23 when Lundy scored on a driving layup.
“We weren’t good against the zone (Thursday) in practice,” said Turgeon. “It carried over to the game today. I do think we’re a great zone-offense team so I’m not concerned. Give Rider a lot of credit.”
After Trimble hit one of two free throws, Okereafor hit a 3-pointer to stretch the Rider lead to 27-18 at 4:03. Sulaimon hit a three for Maryland but Okereafor beat him off the dribble at the other end for Rider’s eighth layup of the first half.
“We learned a lot on Tuesday and we learned a lot tonight,” said Turgeon. “I was able to coach some things I think will make us better in the end. We just have to get better. It’s really about us. We have to play better. Rider was terrific but it’s my job to get us playing better.”