Maryland has some question marks heading into their next month without Dez Wells. Maryland played their first game since their CBE Hall of Fame Classic championship without their star shooting guard, hanging on to defeat the visiting Monmouth Hawks 61-56.
Maryland started Melo Trimble, Richaud Pack, Jake Layman, Jon Graham and Damonte Dodd, electing to go with a bigger lineup in Dez Wells' absence by adding Graham. Newly healthy Evan Smotrycz entered the game at the first media timeout for Graham, who had a solid first shift with four points and two rebounds.
Maryland outplayed Monmouth in the first half, led by 11 points from Melo Trimble and a 19-12 rebounding advantage, but the Hawks turned a strong start to the second into a single-point deficit. Faced with a 39-33 lead with under 12 minutes to go, the Terps found themselves in a situation usually prime for Dez Wells Takeover Time. Instead, Monmouth's high-pressure defense continued to cause problems, and the Hawks cut the Maryland lead to 39-36.
A late Monmouth three pointer cut Maryland's lead to 53-51 with 48.2 seconds left. After Trimble hit two free throws, Monmouth nailed another three pointer, making it 55-54 with 37.4 to play. Trimble made six free throws over the rest of the stretch -- he was 8 of 8 in the final minute -- sealing the victory.
Full box score:
Three things we learned
1. Maryland's offensive rhythm without Dez Wells is uncertain. The big question coming into Friday's game was figuring out a way to replace the scoring output sidelined on the bench. Maryland shot much worse than they have in any other game this season, but were able to find points from Melo Trimble (24) and Jake Layman (14).
Wells' absence was felt more at point guard. With Richaud Pack at shooting guard and no Wells, Maryland was forced to turn to Varun Ram to rest Trimble. The Terps were -5 on the game during those stretches. Monmouth's aggressive defensive play was able to cause problems for Maryland's now limited ball-handling crew, forcing ten turnovers with six steals.
2. Evan Smotrycz is still a while away from 100%. The big man struggled in limited minutes, and never really moved like himself throughout the game. Smotrycz mostly floated around the perimeter, making one of four shots, and wasn't a real presence offensively (although he did make one key bucket near the end of the game). He did make an impact on the boards, leading the team with six.
3. Maryland survived against a game underdog. This was Maryland's first game without Dez Wells, facing a tough defensive matchup. The Terps made just four of their first 14 shots in the second half, but still managed to stay ahead due to strong defensive play and some success at the free throw line.
And let's maybe slow our roll on the frontcourt development, as well. Without Wells, this was an opportunity for them to step up, but Damonte Dodd was virtually absent while Michal Cekovksy had a few scattereed nice moments. On the other end, Brice Kofane, a transfer who is among the nation's leaders in blocked shots, was a presence on the inside, swatting four.