After a back-and-forth first half, No. 11 Maryland pulled away from Purdue for a 69-60 win on Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind., overcoming early interior foul trouble and some offensive dry spells to end a two-game Midwestern swing with a victory.
Jake Layman paced Maryland with 13 points and 8 rebounds, the only Terrapin to stand out in a positive way on the glass. Melo Trimble added 11 points, Dez Wells had 13 points, 7 boards and 4 assists and Dion Wiley scored 9 points – his most prolific game since Dec. 3 against Virginia.
The Terps made 25 of 29 free throws and shot 37.5 percent on field goals, while the Boilermakers shot just 65 percent from the line and 36.8 percent from the field
Maryland (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) and Purdue traded runs throughout the first half. The Terps bounced to a 15-6 lead 10 minutes into the contest, but the Boilermakers countered from there with a series of smaller spurts over the next 10 minutes that brought the game to a 26-26 halt at halftime. Center Damonte Dodd barely played because of two first-minute fouls and a third when he returned toward the end of the half. His replacement, Michal Cekovsky, stood out defensively, but he, too, saw limited time because of two fouls. The result was a serious lack of size in Maryland's front-court, which Purdue exploited to the tune of a 22-15 rebounding edge in the first half.
Dodd picked up his fourth foul shy of the midway point of the second half, but Haas – who had been causing Maryland problems all afternoon – joined him on the sideline with his own fourth foul minutes later. That left neither team able to punish the other for losing a big man for a length stretch, and the game shifted a bit more toward guard play in the latter part of the second half. Purdue only made one three-pointer in the first half, but a trio of them in as many minutes kept the game close even as Maryland began to inch away. Ultimately, the Terps cobbled enough together.
Three things we learned
1. Maryland doesn't have the front-court depth to get into foul trouble. With Dodd sitting for almost the entire first half in foul trouble, Mark Turgeon had little choice but to turn to a freshman, Cekovsky, to counter Purdue giants A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. When Cekovsky accrued two fouls of his own, Turgeon again had to dig into his bench, getting the relatively undersized Jon Graham to match up against Purdue's biggest players. Graham held his own, but he was fighting an uphill battle that had little chance of resulting in a net gain for Maryland. Evan Smotrycz found himself playing center for a moment in the middle of the half, which had nothing short of disastrous potential on defense. Maryland needs Dodd to stay on the court. It's a wonder the Terps hung around without him or Cekovsky on the floor for so long.
2. The Terps' recently injured seniors aren't all the way back. Wells is Maryland's leader in all sorts of ways, but he doesn't look fully back from the broken wrist that only recently sidelined him for a month. Smotrycz, who missed most of the season's first month, has obvious defensive shortcomings, but he also has a history of reasonably efficient offense as a floor-stretching power forward. Yet he's played some of his worst basketball lately, totaling 2 points on 1-of-15 shooting in Maryland's last three games. That's a real killer for Maryland, and if Smotrycz is to stay in Turgeon's rotation, he has to positively regress toward the shooting levels he's shown himself capable of in the past. His current level of play simply won't work for a team with Maryland's aspirations.
Wells seemed to lose his grip on the ball on an early dunk attempt, and he's generally had a hard time controlling it while playing at the breakneck speed to which he's accustomed. For whatever it's worth, though, Wells looked to have a more controlled aggressive streak in the second half, calmly driving toward the basket and kicking out passes or drawing fouls on several occasions. It's plain to see Wells isn't wholly comfortable, but he looks better as time passes.
3. Youth was served. Maryland's freshmen did much of the heavy lifting. Trimble and Wiley were two of Maryland's three best offensive players, combining for 20 points, 3 assists and 5 rebounds. Cekovsky struggled with foul trouble early on and had a silly lane violation in the second half, but he played quality interior defense when he was on the court and finished better around the rim than he has for most of the season. On the whole, 27 of Maryland's 69 points came from the Terps' four freshmen. It doesn't show on the stat sheet, but Trimble and Cekovsky each did a laudable job guarding.