Jalen Smith’s 2019-20 campaign for Maryland men’s basketball was one of the best seasons we have seen from a member of the Terps in a long time. His impact on the defensive end of the floor and his ability to completely take over games offensively made a huge impact for the Terps on numerous occasions.
Smith was voted a Third-Team All-American by the Associated Press, becoming the first Terp to be selected to a third, second or first team since Greivis Vasquez did so in 2010. He was also selected to the All-Big Ten First Team by both the coaches and the media, as well as the Big Ten All-Defensive team.
Smith came into the program as one of the most highly regarded recruits in Terp history. After a freshman season that showcased his potential but also revealed many inconsistencies, he put it all together to complete an absolutely dominant sophomore season that put him amongst the elite in college basketball.
As Smith likely transitions to the next chapter of his basketball career in the NBA, he leaves Maryland as a player that fits the mold of the modern NBA big man. Smith can knock down the triple, protect the rim and he can finish in the paint.
Smith finished the season tied for the third most double-doubles in the entire NCAA. He also was the only player in college basketball with over 60 blocks and 30 made threes.
Let’s take a look at Smith’s top plays from this past season.
Smith’s 2019-20 final stat line: 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. 53.8 percent field goal percentage, 36.8 percent three-point percentage and 75 percent free-throw percentage.
Finishes around the rim
The Maryland-Minnesota game this year was one of the craziest games of the season for a number of reasons — one of which being Smith’s dominant second half after his disastrous first half. Smith picked up three fouls in the first and only played around four minutes.
However, the second half was a different story for Smith. He exploded for 14 of his 16 points in the final stanza, and this play midway through the second half was one of his best of that night.
Smith received the ball in the mid-post and was immediately hit with a double team. Calm under pressure, he dribbled the ball out to the perimeter to create a one-on-one with Daniel Oturu.
Smith then took Oturu down into the paint once again and used a spin move, which led to another double team. The sophomore finally gathered and went strong to convert the extremely tough shot around the rim.
Arguably, Smith’s best game of the season came on the road against Indiana in the Terps’ 77-76 win over the Hoosiers. Smith recorded a career-high 29 points, along with 11 rebounds, and hit this game winning shot with 15 seconds left.
On this play, Smith and Anthony Cowan Jr. perfectly executed a pick-and-roll. Cowan was faced with a double team after the screen, which left Smith wide open on the roll. After the forward got the ball, he was greeted by two Indiana defenders.
Smith absorbed some contact and went straight up to finish the layup, which eventually was the game-winner after Maryland got a stop at the other end.
As mentioned above, Smith’s fingerprints were all over this late game comeback win at Indiana. When all seemed lost with a little over a minute to go, Smith showcased his much improved ability to drive to the basket.
This shot brought Maryland within four; and on the very next play, Smith was able to come away with a steal in the full-court press, leading to an Aaron Wiggins three to bring the game within one point.
To put it simply, Maryland would not have had any chance to win this game against Indiana without Smith’s contributions.
As we saw throughout this season, one of Smith’s best abilities was extending possessions with an offensive rebound, and this play against Northwestern was a perfect example of that.
Cowan took and missed a triple, which led to Smith pulling down a tough offensive rebound. Smith then kicked it out to reset the possession. After the reset, Cowan drove to the hoop and found Smith for the easy alley-oop finish.
Ability to stretch the floor
One of Smith’s biggest improvements this season was his shooting from beyond the arc. He went from a 26.8 percent three-point shooter as a freshman to a 36.8 percent three-point shooter as a sophomore, including a 41.2 percent mark in conference play.
While the win at Michigan State this season will be remembered for Cowan’s personal 11-0 run to win the game, it was Smith who got the comeback party started for the Terps. On this play, Smith came up and looked like he was going to set a screen for Darryl Morsell, but instead just went right to the wing.
Smith got the ball and launched a triple right in the face of Xavier Tillman and connected to start the run that eventually led to one of Maryland’s biggest wins of the season.
Smith was not great shooting the ball from deep during the win against Michigan, only going 1-for-5 from beyond the arc, but this shot was extremely impressive. Smith got the ball with just a few seconds left and dribbled up the court.
The All-American big pulled up from beyond NBA range and connected at the buzzer to give the Terps a 13-point lead heading into the break.
In addition to extending plays with offensive rebounds, Smith also excelled this season in turning defense into offense. On this play, Smith came away with one of a career-high six blocks against Rutgers.
After getting the block, Smith trailed Cowan on the break and received the ball at the top of the key as he let it fly for three easy points.
A pest on defense
As mentioned before, turning defense into offense and extending possessions with offensive rebounds were specialities for Smith this season. On this play, Smith came away with a big block on one end that led to Maryland getting out in the fast break.
Wiggins got a contested layup as a result of the fast break, but was not able to convert. After picking up the block, Smith was trailing Wiggins the whole way and was able to grab the offensive rebound and finish it off with a big slam for two points.
Smith made big plays all season in clutch situations and some of his biggest plays were on the defensive end. In the second half against a far inferior Nebraska team, the Cornhuskers came all the way back after trailing by 13 at halftime.
Cam Mack drove all the way to the basket on the final play of the game to potentially win it and pull off the huge upset, but Smith would not let that happen. He slid over to help away from his man and came up with a huge block to end the game and keep the Terps from what would have been a horrible loss.
Smith’s clutch defense in late game situations was not exclusive to the Nebraska win, he also came up big against Rutgers to help secure a win.
After Caleb McConnell got past Cowan on his drive, Smith slid over to help and came away with a big block to keep the Terps lead in tact. After this block the Terps hit a few free throws and were able to secure the win.