While the game against Pittsburgh five days ago was a loss for Maryland, there were still some positive takeaways indicating that this team was improving. Heading into the Miami game, the question became whether those positive changes would carry over as the season progressed or if Maryland would again take a step back.
The game Wednesday night showed that this team is starting to both play better and correct mistakes that have proved costly in the past. They still have their share of issues to improve upon and by no means can you say they've turned the proverbial corner until they show this type of play for more than two games, but the trend seems to finally be in a positive direction.
"I was really pleased with our team," Turgeon said following Maryland's win. "I thought we shared the ball and got them out of their zone early. We scored 74 points. The most anybody in the league had scored against them was 67 (Duke)."
Speaking of the zone, Maryland did a great job attacking it on Wednesday, showing patience and a willingness to make an extra pass to get a teammate an open look. Six different players had an assist in the win last night, including four from Evan Smotrycz. Additionally, Maryland only committed ten turnovers, with several of those coming in the closing minutes, allowing Miami to tie the game before Dez Wells hit his game winning three pointer.
Wells had an incredible night for Maryland, playing the role of a clutch, go-to player in the second half that the Terps have lacked throughout this season. Not only did he score 21 second-half points, including the game winning three pointer, but he made every shot he attempted., going 6/6 from the field and 7/7 from the free throw line. He also had four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
"He made some tough shots in the second half," Mark Turgeon said about Wells. "He really played well out there. I was happy for him."
Another interesting observation from Wednesday's win was the lack of playing time for Shaq Cleare, who logged just four minutes, all in the first half. Cleare has been averaging around 15 minutes per game this season. Shaq lost his starting spot to Jon Graham during Wednesday's game, as Graham made his second start of the season. Whether that will continue into the future remains to be seen, but Turgeon played both Graham and Damonte Dodd for a combined 25 minutes rather than giving Shaq more time on the court.
Another issue for Maryland last night, which almost cost them the game, was free throw shooting. Numerous times this season, missed free throws have allowed opposing teams to stay in games down the stretch. Last night, Seth Allen twice missed the front end of a one and one opportunity and Miami was able to tie the game as a result. Maryland shot just 61.5% from the line for the game.
While Maryland did a better job of fighting through the constant barrage of ball screens set by Miami, they still allowed the Hurricanes several easy scoring opportunities on Wednesday, something they'll have to continue to work on correcting as they head into the final ten games of their last season of ACC play.
Miami was a game Maryland should have won and they would have done so with a decent margin of victory had they not allowed the Canes to hang around and almost pull off the improbable comeback. But it was also a game that this team very easily could have lost had this game happened earlier in the year. They were able to win, which is important, but they need to continue to show additional, consistent improvement moving forward. There have been far too many times where we think this team has finally hit their stride, only to see them take a step back shortly thereafter. Hopefully they can keep it up against Virginia Tech on Saturday, who currently sits at the bottom of the ACC's standings.