The Maryland men's basketball team rode a strong shooting day to a 73-64 win at Oklahoma State on Sunday, giving the No. 17 Terps a fine win in their first true road contest of a still-young season.
In a game that had been touch-and-go, Maryland (11-1) started the second half with a 13-3 run and never looked too far back. The Terps moved the ball better than at any point this season. They shot 45 percent from the field overall, but they were 10-of-26 on three-pointers and 15-of-18 on free throws, some of which were critical in the game's closing moments. The Cowboys made just 8 of 26 threes and 4 of 9 foul shots, in a swift departure from Maryland's success. On offense, Maryland went cold at various stretches but always had an answer before Oklahoma State could fully storm back, even as the Cowboys cut into the Terps' lead just before the buzzer.
Jake Layman starred for the Terps, posting 21 points and 11 crucial rebounds. Melo Trimble added 15 points, while Jared Nickens hit three three-pointers en route to an 11-point game.
Maryland started the game with consecutive three-pointers but struggled to sustain offense for much of the first half. Oklahoma State confronted the Terrapins with a high-pressure brand of defense, forcing the Terps into a dearth of high-percentage shots, but Maryland eventually adjusted.
The officials called a relatively loose half, and Maryland only went to the foul line three times in the opening 20 minutes – a big problem for a team that has relied on free throws more this year than at any recent point. Still, the Terps picked things up in the closing minutes of the half and took a 10-point lead in its final minute, before a 30-second Cowboys run cut that deficit in half going to the break. Maryland got all of that back with a run to start the second half.
Despite a late charge by Oklahoma State, Maryland finished the game at the foul line. The Terps, ranked 17th nationally this week, will inch toward a top-10 ranking when new lists come out on Monday.
Three things we learned
1. Maryland sealed its defensive glass, for a while. Oklahoma State got one fluky "rebound" on an airball at the end of the first half, but otherwise the Terps didn't give up a single offensive board in the opening frame. In the second, though they gave up 6. It isn't a coincidence that Maryland gave up just 27 points in the first half. The Terps have had pedestrian rebounding numbers throughout their hot start, but limiting the Cowboys to one chance on almost every trip for so long was enormous in building Maryland's lead. Oklahoma State hit the glass a lot harder in the second half, obviously, but Maryland managed to hold the Cowboys off anyway. High marks must go to Jake Layman, who matched for most of the game against uber-athlete Le'Bryan Nash and didn't let him wreak havoc on the glass.
2. Mark Turgeon isn't such a bad tactician, after all. The Terrapins' head coach has taken a lot of heat in the last few seasons for not being a shrewd in-game strategist. A buzzer-beating Pe'Shon Howard fadeaway here, a bout of Dez Wells hero-ball there, with obsolete perimeter motion mixed in all around, and Turgeon was criticized for bad play-calling. That's not happening much this year, in part because Maryland has better players now – and because Turgeon is putting them in optimal spots to succeed. Maryland started the first half on a 6-0 run, then started the second half on a 5-0 run. The Terps had several excellent looks after timeouts. When Turgeon had a chance to make adjustments our outwit the other side, he consistently followed through. In the stretch of dominance for the first few minutes of the second half, someone dressed in black was open virtually every trip down the floor. That's talent, both on the court and on the sideline.
3. Maryland has two elite players, and maybe that's all that matters. When Wells returns shortly from injury, it isn't at all unreasonable to suggest he'll be the Terps' third-best player. That's how good Layman and Trimble have been, and continued to be on Saturday. Both are putting up great offensive numbers, but more important than that, they have the efficiency stats and peripherals that indicate they're going to keep being really, really good. Trimble finished with 15 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds, mounting a fine offensive showing even as officials called a loose game that limited his free throw opportunities. Layman had 21 points and 11 boards, and his work against Nash was vital to Maryland's defensive success. Wells will come back, and he'll be crucial to whatever these Terps become. With Trimble and Layman working at such a high level, Wells doesn't have to be a savior.