Monday against Arizona State, Maryland trailed for much of the game. The Terps scored enough to keep close, chipping away at the Sun Devils' lead before coming away with the win. Tuesday against No. 13 Iowa State, Maryland was supposed to face a much stiffer challenge. Instead, they outplayed the Cyclones in nearly every aspect in a hostile "neutral court" environment, cementing a resume victory with the 72-63 win.
Maryland started Melo Trimble, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, Jon Graham and Damonte Dodd, subbing Graham in for Richaud Pack in their starting lineup to deal with the threat of Iowa State power forward Georges Niang. Freshman forward Michal Cekovsky ended up making a bigger impact against Niang eventually, but the junior was held to 10 points on 13 shots after entering the day averaging 20 points per game.
The Terps were able to run out to an early lead thanks to a 10-2 run punctuated by freshman guard Melo Trimble, fresh off a 31-point performance against Arizona State. Trimble stole an errant Iowa State pass and found Pack on the break, who smartly slowed down the possession. The ball eventually made its way around to Trimble, who drained the three to make it 23-16 Maryland.
Maryland was able to build off their strong performance on the offensive boards against Arizona State in the first half of this one, recording five offensive rebounds with 10 second-chance points. They did not commit a single turnover in the first 10 minutes of the game.
The Terps were able to extend that lead to 10 points in the second half, but Iowa State made a run thanks to Bryce Earley-Jones and Niang. Jared Nickens scored eight straight Maryland points, including two three-pointers, keeping the Terps' lead secure.
Maryland tried their darndest to give the game away at the end, missing free throws and giving up turnovers, but they were able to hold on for the victory. Full box score:
Three things we learned
1. Yes, this team is different. It was hard to tell too much from Maryland's dominating performances against cupcakes, but it sure seemed like the team was playing with an offensive rhythm heretofore unseen under Mark Turgeon. Arizona State was another positive sign, as the Terps were able to take a win against a Power 5 conference with a singular player's scoring charge, but Tuesday night was another story entirely. Faced with one of the best programs in the country, Maryland continued to move the ball well, winning the assist-to-turnover battle and shot the ball well as a result.
The offensive improvements are noticeable, but Maryland once again dominated defensively. Iowa State came into this game averaging 86.0 points per game, and the Terps held them to 29.7% shooting on the day.
2. Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd continue to improve. Cekovsky almost completely shut down Niang, and played some much-needed good minutes when Dodd was called for his third foul. Maryland outrebounded Iowa State in the game -- not entirely an expected outcome despite the Terps' height advantage -- finishing with 39 boards compared to 38 for the Cyclones. Dodd had four points with five rebounds with a block, an assist and no turnovers, while Cekovsky scored four points with eight rebounds and two blocks.
3. Why, hello, another freshman with volume scoring potential! Melo Trimble impressed Monday with his 31-point performance, just two points shy of the school's freshman record. Tuesday, it was Jared Nickens' turn. With Dez Wells not quite at his best in either of these two games, Maryland desperately needed an extra offensive presence, and the freshman guard/forward was able to provide that. Nickens made six of his ten shots (including three from deep), leading the team with 15 points and making a number of backbreaking buckets.