Having a "Big Three" is a cliche in the basketball world at this point. But I doubt any Maryland fans will complain about it.
The Terrapins rode their newfound Big Three to a much-needed victory over N.C. State tonight in the Comcast Center, 87-80, keeping their NCAA tournament hopes alive in the process. Dino Gregory had a career-high 18 points, Terrell Stoglin tied his career-high with 25, and Jordan Williams came up a point short of tying his, leading all scorers with 26.
That Big three scored 69 of Maryland's 87 points. 10 more came from Sean Mosley, and all but two of those came in the game's closing minutes. No one else on the team scored more than 4. But sometimes you take that. This was one of those times.
Maryland was the better team for the first fifteen minutes or so in the first half, opening up a 10-point lead at about the 4:00 mark. After that, things came apart: they had 4 straight turnovers, during which N.C. State went on a 14-0 run. Maryland fought back to get the lead down to 2 at half, but the momentum they should've had going into the break was all but dissolved.
The turnovers disappeared in the second half, though. And when I say "disappeared," I mean it literally: Maryland
didn't commit a single second-half turnover committed two TOs in the second, but they were in the game's final minutes. The two traded leads for a short while, but Maryland took the lead for good at the 5:16 mark off a Sean Mosley lay-up. That layup sparked an 8-0 Maryland run, and the Terrapins ran away with the game after that.
Jordan Williams is who he is and he does what he does. Dropping 26, while impressive, is hardly surprising for him anymore. What Maryland has lacked all year is someone to score next him. Today, they had two. And they might be for real.
Both Dino and Stoglin have been streaking the right direction, maybe peaking tonight. We'll start with Stoglin: he dropped 25 against VT last time out and 25 again against the Wolfpack. Over the past four games, he's averaging 19.8 ppg. He's streaky, that's for sure, but when he's on, he's really on. His quickness is shockingly good and he has an unbelievable feel for the game. He's a natural scorer, plain and simple. Oh, and let's not forget that he had 9 assists, too. His ceiling, at least in college, is very high.
Dino, meanwhile, has been a rock for Maryland all year. His jumper is money, he fights hard on the inside, and he's good enough on defense. His 18 today were a career high, but he also had 10 boards, good for his second double-double in four games. Over the past four games, he's been averaging 14.8ppg, so maybe he's turning an offensive corner.
If all three keep it up, Maryland could be very dangerous down the stretch. That might be asking a lot for Stoglin and Dino, but these aren't one-time performances; they're trending, and they're trending the right way.
Stoglin, for the record, started with Pe'Shon Howard, who was fine, though hardly spectacular. The other newcomer in the starting lineup was Cliff Tucker, in for Sean Mosley, but that didn't change much for him. He's been struggling for quite some time now, and he had another clunker game: 4 points, 2-6 from the floor, and 2 TOs.
The good news is that Sean Mosley, the player benched for him, finally looked alive. Don't get me wrong, he was almost invisible for 15 minutes, and when you did see him, it usually wasn't good. But he scored 8 points over the final five minutes, including one very difficult layup that helped to spark a run. His decisions are still questionable and it wasn't a very long run, but any positive sign from Mosley is good enough to mention.
Adrian Bowie, for the record, kept quiet. He didn't attempt a shot, but had 5 assists. He and Tucker, the two seniors in the backcourt, combined for four points total. Neither of them have looked alive since the Longwood game. All of that pretty much corroborates what we already knew: that the freshmen are better than the upperclassmen right now, and it's really not particularly close. In today's guard-focused game, you need your experienced guards to step up, and Maryland's rarely do. One did tonight, but that's more of an aberration than a trend. This is nothing we didn't already know, but it's still somewhat disappointing.
At the same time, the fact that the freshmen are already outperforming them is pretty encouraging for the future of this team. It may not be in the immediate future, but over the long term, Stoglin and Howard are more likely than not taking this team places. Stoglin is a natural scorer and his silly mistakes should decrease as he becomes more experienced. Howard is a rock and I imagine he'll continue to be one.
Meanwhile, three-point shooting continues to be a serious problem, on both sides of the floor. All Scott Wood does is shoot threes, and he does it well, so you would think that Maryland would focus in on stopping him. But he shot 5-7 from three, with most of those coming when he's wide open. N.C. State normally shoots 33% from deep, but they hit 41% tonight, and nearly 50% after the first half. That's going to hurt.
It's going to hurt even more when you have nothing to counter it with. Maryland took its first and only three point attempt with 7:24 left in the second half. Unsurprisingly, they missed. N.C. State outscored them from beyond the arc 21-0. That's the type of thing that can kill you even if you shoot substantially better from the field. It also goes to show just how much playing time an outside threat like Nick Faust could get next year, provided his shot is for real.
There should be a few more posts as the week goes on. Nice win, not outstanding but nice. Maryland's NCAAT hopes are hanging on by a thread, but they're hanging on. I'll leave you with this: Maryland shot 23-25 from the free throw line. Over the past six games - not a small sample size - they're shooting a blistering 78% from three. If they did that over the entire year, that would be good for 5th in the nation, and probably would've won them at least two of those early-season losses.
Who knows? Maybe they'll make a run after all.