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Maryland-Northern Iowa recap: Terps ride second-half Smotrycz burst to big victory, 80-66

Maryland will be playing in the Paradise Jam finals.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland played their most complete game of the season, convincingly beating a very solid Northern Iowa team in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam tournament. Nick Faust led the way in the first half, but Evan Smotrycz put the game away in the second half with a very strong showing. Maryland won the game 80-66.

The Terps lead 33-30 at halftime, on the strength of ten points from Dez Wells and nine points from Faust. Faust, in particular, impressed -- he struggled early, but had an efficient rest of the half and turned the ball over just once -- while converting two steals into dunks.

Maryland hit their first three-pointer of the game just under two minutes into the second half, when Faust hit one to up his point total to 12 (and the Maryland lead to 38-32). NIU responded with a three of their own, but Jake Layman hit one to push Maryland's lead back to six.

It was the first game of the year that Maryland really utilized their athletic advantage -- at least against an opponent of quality. Both teams struggled to hit their shots in the first half, but Maryland was able to force turnovers and run the floor in transition, or slow it down and outmuscle the Panthers inside. Once the three-pointers started falling in the second half, it was a completely different game.

The Terps missed all eight three point attempts in the first half, and then hit five of their first six deep attempts in the second half. Northern Iowa was able to answer on a few of them, but Maryland was slowly able to pull away on the strength of their shooting -- especially Evan Smotrycz, who hit three of those attempts.

Northern Iowa got on a hot streak, pulling the lead to within two with less than six minutes to play, but an alley oop (plus a foul) from Faust to Layman swung the momentum right back to the Terps. Smotrycz scored on the next possession, tying a career high with 20 points.

Up 71-64 with just over a minute left, Jake Layman hit a three-pointer from the corner to seal it.

The Terps utilized a four-headed attack, as Roddy Peters and Charles Mitchell combined to provide just eight points.  Smotrycz had his 20 (with nine rebounds), Layman had 19, Wells had 16 and Faust had 17.