Maryland played their most complete game of the season, using a balanced offense and terrific three-point shooting to overcome a very beatable Georgia Tech team in College Park, winning 77-61. The Terrapins are now 2-0 in their final stab at ACC play, with an extremely tough game at Pittsburgh coming up on Monday.
Much will be made of the Terps' three-point shooting in the game, but Maryland also took advantage of Georgia Tech's void on the inside (caused by an injury to big man Robert Carter, Jr.). The team rebounded well, drove to the lane and scored with their big men with more consistency than has been seen for much of this season. Shaq Cleare had eight points, tied for second-most of the year, and Charles Mitchell had six points with 11 rebounds (although he forced some shots).
Maryland took a quick 12-2 lead early, thanks in part to a ferocious Dez Wells one-handed slam dunk (that drew a foul) and a Jake Layman wide open three. Layman hit a contested three from deep just a few minutes later, making it 15-4. Georgia Tech went on a brief run of their own, cutting the lead to 15-8, but Nick Faust hit a three pointer to turn things back around.
The Yellow Jackets improved on their offensive efficiency throughout the half to bring the Maryland lead down to 27-22, but Nick Faust's acrobatic three brought the lead back up to 32-22. Faust hit his third three pointer at the half later on to make it 37-24, and Seth Allen hit Maryland's sixth three pointer from the half to make it 40-26 around a minute later.
It's no question that this looks like a different Maryland team. Earlier in the year, if the Terps jumped out to an early lead and their opponent responded, they would fold and give it up quickly. Saturday, Maryland responded in kind, utilizing their new-found depth to expand on their lead and enter halftime with a 43-29 lead, thanks to seven of 11 three-point shooting to start out the game.
The Terps rarely turned the ball over, and the offensive improvement we have seen since Seth Allen's return seemed to take yet another big step in this one. Maryland turned the ball over just six times, and did not allow their offensive gameplan to get away from them, even as the Yellow Jackets put together some runs.
We talked briefly about Maryland's three-point shooting earlier, but Nick Faust looked like a completely different shooter in this one. He's seen marked improvement in his game since being benched, providing excellent defense and better decision making, but shooting was still an issue. Against Georgia Tech, the junior picked his spots and hit his first four shot attempts -- all from three. He ended up with a game-high 16 points,Evan Smotrycz scored 14, Dez Wells scored 11 and Seth Allen scored ten.
The Yellow Jackets played Maryland close in the second half, but the Terrapins built up such a dominating first half lead that the game was never really in question. Maryland led the entire way, and will enter their first big ACC test of the season undefeated in conference play.