COLLEGE PARK, Md. – All that depth that Mark Turgeon has been crowing about since this summer finally showed up Nov. 24 at Xfinity Center.
And the undefeated Terrapins needed all hands to finally put away – and stop us if you’ve heard this before -- a scrappy Stony Brook team in a 77-63 victory, Maryland’s last local tune-up before taking their act on the road this weekend.
Maryland (5-0) never led by 20 at any point, but the Terrapins were never really in any serious trouble after the first 10 minutes. “We lack energy before the games when we look in the stands and don’t see that many people there,” said Melo Trimble, who again led the charge with 21 points. “It’s something that needs to carry over from practice. Coach Turgeon preaches to us about communication and come game time he wants to see us with a lot of energy.”
The announced crowd of 14,034 played smaller with so many students already headed home for Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t that the Terrapins played a turkey of a game, well other than the now traditional bugaboos – rebounding and fouls. Stony Brook (0-3) got 16 points at the free throw line (in 23 attempts) and Maryland’s mounting foul problems in the post helped contribute to a 38-36 Seawolves edge on the boards.
“We did some nice things defensively, but once again we didn’t rebound,” said Turgeon. “They’re a hard team to guard. They really space you and they run some tricky things. I thought we guarded pretty well. And in the second half we ran better than we’ve run all year and shot it better than we have, 8-of-19 (from three-point range). We shot less threes and played more inside-out than we have all year because of Ceko.”
Seven-foot-one Michal Cekovsky, playing his first game this season, led the bench brigade but he wasn’t the only one. Dion Wiley had his best game with 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting behind the arc, and Ceko had 11 points before fouling out in 16 minutes off the bench.
“He looked fresh physically and mentally,” said Turgeon of Ceko. “That was on one day of practice. He hadn’t practiced in two weeks after he sprained his foot. He practiced yesterday it wasn’t really a hard practice. He’s been doing a lot of running, a lot of weight-lifting and lot of lower leg stuff. I was really encouraged. He finished plays around the rim, and when he had an angle he was good. Defensively he’s going to play so much better than he did tonight.”
The Seawolves, who won 26 games and went to the NCAA Tournament last year, kept their head above water, down just nine with under 10 minutes to play. But the Terrapins found their way defensively, forcing 12 straight Stony Brook misses as they slowly pulled away. The Wolves shot just 10-of-32 (31.3 percent) in the second half on their way to 34.4 percent shooting in the game. They were even worse from long range, canning only 12.5 percent (3-of-24) behind the arc.
Maryland got 33 points off the bench, paced by Wiley and Cekovsky, who hit 5-of-7. Jaylen Brantley added six on 3-of-5 shooting, and Jared Nickens showed signs of life, hitting his first jumper but finishing 1-of-3 for three points. The waves of guards Turgeon could bring on the perimeter seemed to erode Stony Brook’s shooters and certainly contributed to their late shooting woes.
And having three post players, even without starter Damonte Dodd who wasn’t even in the building after suffering a concussion, also saved the day. Cekovsky ran the floor like a gazelle and influenced play at both ends in his brief foul-plagued stint.
“He had a big impact,” said Trimble. “We didn’t have Damonte and to have Ceko back healthy, eager to play, was important, and the way he played was great. We all knew Ceko would score. He just had to get healthy.”
Cekovsky, who was slated to start at center this year, was hampered in the preseason with a hamstring injury and then sprained his foot just before the season opener, and hadn’t played all in the fist four games. Turgeon lamented not having his whole team yet for any practices, something that could change this week if Dodd hurries back.
Things pick up from here, Maryland playing Richmond 9:30 p.m. Nov. 25 in the Barclays Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y., and then either Boston College or Kansas State on Nov. 26. The next home game is Nov. 29 against Pittsburgh in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
As for Stony Brook, by the time Wiley hit his fourth 3-pointer on his way to a season-high, Maryland led 67-52 at 6:12, and Wiley’s roommate was delighted. “Dion was just so anxious to get out there,” said Trimble. “He just hadn’t found his comfort zone and getting out there and making some shots will really help him. He has been in the gym working out with Coach Turgeon.”
Wiley explained he had been keeping his thumb on the ball too long in his release, but more than anything he just needed a shot to go down early and get him rolling. “Coach Turgeon worked with me and I made some more,” he said. “Not making shots had put me down a little bit. Tonight I built my confidence and I think I can build off this.”
Another steady veteran guard of the bench, Brantley, who had assisted Wiley’s three, hit a jumper and the lead was 17. When Trimble connected from three at 4:07, Maryland had its biggest lead (18 points) with just 4:10 left.
The Seawolves wouldn’t go away, but they really wouldn’t challenge again, never getting closer than 13 points until it was under a minute to play. Trimble hit 4-of-8, 3-of-6 from three, and again paraded to the free throw line where he canned 11-of-12. Maryland was 23-of-33 at the line (69.7 percent) and shot 23-of-47 from the field (48.9 percent).
Wiley thought some of the team’s uneven offensive play was because he and others off the bench just hadn’t shot well. “I think it’s really important for us to get going. The young guys and this team are going to need us to get going in order to make it far in the tournament and for us to be a Top 25 team.”
One of those young guys, Justin Jackson continued to provide the Terps with what they needed. He had a quiet eight points but a team-high nine rebounds, a real must as the posts all picked up at least four fouls.
“We fouled a lot,” said Turgeon. “We can’t get separation or get in the flow of the game like we want to when you foul as much as we’re fouling. We’ll have to figure out a way to rebound better and play without fouling.”
Gutty Stony Brook guard Jake Woodhouse scored the first two baskets of the second half, driving and shooting over Anthony Cowan, and Stony Brook had shaved Maryland’s 11-point halftime lead to 38-31. Trimble got a 3-pointer from the corner, but Akwasi Yeboah answered. Woodhouse led the Seawolves with 14 points and four assists.
Then Cekovsky, who started the second half, announced his presence with authority. First he dunked on a lob from Cowan (and hung on the rim to draw a technical foul and the ire of Turgeon), then he scored on a lob from Kevin Huerter right after Huerter scored in transition as the Seawolves made back-to-back turnovers. It was 47-35, and Stony Brook coach Jeff Boals called timeout.
“It was my first game after the injuries and I still have to find a rhythm and stay out of foul trouble,” said Cekovsky. “It was nice to be back. I was excited to be back.”
The Terrapins had 15 points off 12 Stony Brook miscues.
Maryland couldn’t pull away as foul trouble in the post mounted, Ivan Bender and L.G. Gill each picking up their fourth fouls and Cekovsky his third in the first 7:01 of the second half.
The Seawolves got it back under 10 points when Roland Nyama hit a baseline jumper and a free throw after he was fouled, making it 58-49 at 10:44. Cekovsky hit a short hook for an 11-point lead, but then the next time back on defense, he got his fourth foul.
“(Ceko) is more confident and he thinks this is his time,” said Turgeon. “He’s unbelievably frustrated since he has been hurt since August 29th. He has practiced maybe 10 times so it’s good to see him play like that. He has paid his dues and waited for his turn, and he knows it’s his time so he is much more confident.”
Maryland had a nice, albeit it not decisive run in the first half, too, and then fizzled a little late. They still led 38-27 at halftime. The Terrapins couldn’t muster a field goal over the last 4:57 of the half and the Seawolves made up some ground, cutting a 14-point lead back to eight with three straight scores. Bryan Sekunda hit a driving shot, Tyrell Sturdivant had two free throws and Nyama nailed a jumper at 2:08 to make it 34-26.
Maryland hit just one of its last seven shots, but got two free throws from Trimble, and then two more from Ivan Bender, who made his first career start, to push the lead back to 12.
Trimble had turned up the heat earlier, scoring six straight points as Maryland went from down 10-9 at 13:54, to ahead 17-11 at 12:32 when Wiley drained a three. Wiley gave the Terps a real lift with six first half points and two assists, most in a 7:02 stretch that saw Maryland slowly pull away during a 20-7 run.
Cekovsky’s return came during this stretch as well, the big Slovakian center making his first appearance at 12:19. He soon blocked a shot to trigger a break that Wiley canned that three on, and then he got a tip-in and a score on a lob from Wiley before committing two quick fouls.
Trimble led all scorers with 13 points in the first half, but Maryland, playing without Dodd, built some foul trouble around the basket. Bender and Gill each had three, and Ceko two at the half. The last 26 seconds, all three were on the bench as Jackson played the post.