We knew coming into Thursday night's contest that Fordham would provide a stiffer challenge to Maryland than Northeast Conference opponents Wagner or Central Connecticut State did. The visiting Rams just did that, giving the Terps a game in the first half before Jake Layman and Maryland were able to run away with it in the second. The Terps outscored Fordham 43-32 in the second half, riding 12 Layman points to a 66-50 victory.
Maryland was hitting threes early, but their shooting quickly ran cold for the rest of the first half. After two three pointers from Layman and one from Dez Wells made up nine of the Terps' first 11 points, Maryland's shots stopped falling.
Leading 16-15 with under five minutes to play in the first half, Maryland went on a 7-1 run capped by a Jared Nickens three pointer. Maryland ended up leading 23-18 at halftime on 36.4% shooting.
The Terps picked up their offense a bit to start out the second half, with eight points on their first three possessions of the period. Three pointers from Melo Trimble and Richaud Pack and a driving layup from Layman made it 31-21 quickly. Later in the quarter, Dion Wiley picked off a Fordham past, took it down the court and passed it off to Layman, who dunked over a poor Ram defender to make the lead 37-24. Maryland's next scoring possession? Another break for Layman, another slam dunk.
Maryland cruised from there, winning by a final score of 66-50.
Three things we learned
1. This team is capable of playing sloppy basketball. The Terps put it together in the second half, but that first half was ugly. This is still a young team, and it showed: the newcomers started the game 2 of 12 from the floor and 2 of 7 from the line. Maryland shot 8 of 22 from the floor in the first half and had 11 turnovers, and was quite reminiscent of Turgeon teams of old.
Then, the second half happened. The shots started falling, Jake Layman took over a bit and the Terps found themselves with a solid double-digit lead. One thing's clear, however: if Maryland wants to beat Arizona State Monday, they're going to have to start a bit cleaner than that. You're going to have games like this: no season is perfect, and every team has off games. The question is how you respond to those, and Maryland responded with a strong second half performance Thursday.
About that free throw shooting: Maryland was 2-of-10 in the first half and 14-of-17 in the second. Considering the Terps shot well from the line in the first two games, that first half would appear to be the outlier there.
2. Frontcourt struggles finally reared their head. We noted in the first two games that Maryland's early-season tendency to have guards lead the team in rebounding would not be a sustainable strategy. Faced with a more skilled frontcourt, the trio of Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky and Jon Graham struggled a bit. This time it was Richaud Pack who led the team in rebounds (eight), as the team finished even with the Rams at 38 rebounds. The Terps had two blocks in the game, both by guards -- Dez Wells and Dion Wiley.
Cekovksy had the best day of the three. The freshman finished with six points and five rebounds in 15 minutes, but had four fouls in his limited action. He did not get credit for any blocks, but altered a number of shots on the inside.
3. Maryland can find scoring from different places. Layman was an expected major contributor in the second half, but freshman guard/forward Jared Nickens also played a significant role in getting the run started. Nickens took twice as many shots as Maryland's next-leading shotleader, scoring 11 points with six rebounds.
As Andrew put it:
Three games into the season and three different Terp freshmen have scored double digits in a game.— Andrew Emmer (@AndrewEmmer) November 21, 2014
Maryland played a sloppy game, and still won by more than they were expected to (KenPom predicted a 15-point win). It didn't always look great, but the Terps now stand 3-0 heading into that Arizona State game -- just like they wanted.