No. 21 Maryland men’s basketball was down at halftime but came back in a big way during the second half to propel itself to a 68-57 victory over Vermont.
The Terps outscored the Catamounts 36-21 in the second half as well as outrebounded them 23-17 in the second frame.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. That last 10 minutes was as good as one of my teams have ever played defensively and I’ve had a lot of really good defensive teams,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “That was something else.”
Maryland now advances to 3-0 on the season and through three games, the Terps have shown they can find different ways to win and have started to identify some gaps.
Here are three takeaways from Maryland's third win of the season.
Three-point shooting is still a challenge for the team early in the season.
Coming into this matchup, Maryland hit just nine of 37 attempted three-point shots. Guard Eric Ayala leads the category tallying three on the season. Donta Scott and Ian Martinez were behind him with two each while Fatts Russell and Pavlo Dziuba have both added one.
This seems to have turned into a pattern for Maryland. In the first half against Vermont, the Terps hit just 11 of their 34 attempts from the first in the first 30 minutes of the game and just two of their 11 attempts from deep.
“It’s good for us to get challenges early cause we’re such a new team,” Ayala said. You know, facing adversity early so that when we get to Big Ten play it’ll be easier.”
In the second half, the Terps seemed to turn things around. Although they already had 14 shot attempts from deep by the halfway point of the frame, the Terps also added four more successful three-point shots to their stat sheet.
However, the Terps still finished the game with a 22.2% shooting clip showing that there is still a lot of room for improvement coming off a season in which they 35.7% from behind the arc. Through three games, Maryland’s three-point field goal percentage is just 23.4%, a stark difference from last season.
One player who Turgeon believes has the potential to be a difference-maker from that spot on the court is guard Hakim Hart.
“We want him to be a little bit more part of the offense. He does too. We think he can score, he scored the other night for us off the dribble,” Turgeon said. “We think he can make a lot of threes for us as the season goes on.”
There is still plenty of time before conference play for the Terps to tighten up their shooting from deep.
Maryland’s backcourt duo of Fatts Russell and Eric Ayala will be electric.
Both Russell and Ayala finished the game with 22 points each, combining for nearly 65% of Maryland’s points Saturday afternoon.
Russell completed seven of his 16 attempted shots from the field including 2-for-8 from deep while Ayala was 7-for-18 from the field including 2-for-8 from behind the arc. Russell hit six of his nine attempts from the charity stripe while Ayala hit all six of his.
Both bring veteran experience that is valuable to this Maryland team filled with new faces. Although Russell transferred to the program in the offseason, he played with Scott in high school and Hart as well as Ayala are from similar areas in which they all knew each other growing up.
Russell has seemed to instantly connect and build chemistry with the other players on the court. In addition to his 22 points, Russell grabbed five boards and dished out two assists in 30 minutes.
“Well, Eric’s a tremendous scorer,” Russell said. “So you know, I’m just trying to feed him, make his job easier”
Ayala was on the court for 38 minutes and had two rebounds along with two assists.
Ahead of the season, it seemed as though the two guards would make a large impact on this Maryland offense and through three games, that proves to be true. Russell leads the team with 49 points and Ayala is right behind with 46. Combined, they make up about 43% of Maryland’s total points so far this season.
If these past three games are an indication of how the rest of the season will play out, this backcourt duo will be a huge factor in Maryland’s success going forward.
The team gets energy from both the bench and the fans.
When all was said and done, 13 of Maryland’s 68 points came from the bench and the impact of the players that substitute in extend beyond the scoring stat.
The Terps were down in the first half and Turgeon left one starting guard in, first Russell, then Ayala while filling the rest of the lineup with guards Martinez and Xavier Green along with forwards Simon Wright and Julian Reese.
“Xavier was great today,” Russell said. “He guarded all the minutes that he played, and I feel like he’s one of the best defenders on our team.”
Although he finished with zero points, Green had five rebounds, one assist and one steal in 18 minutes.
Wright and Martinez were among the few Terps to hit a three-point shot today and that could become more of a factor in the games to come.
“I think Simon could become a part of our rotation every game whether it’s a small team or a big team,” Turgeon said. “We’ll see moving forward.”
When the game was tied at 27, Turgeon put back in a similar lineup this time, keeping Hart and Ayala in and not subbing in Wright. Scott came back into the game once Reese picked up a foul but ultimately it was the bench that helped reinvigorate the lineup after the starters had some trouble stopping the Catamounts.
Reese led the group with seven points, three rebounds and one block.
Additionally, the atmosphere in the Xfinity Center helped propel Maryland to victory.
“Our fan base got us going,” Turgeon said. “We needed it.”
For Russell, Wahab, Wright, Green, Martinez, Reese and Ike Cornish, these first few games are their introduction to the Maryland fan base and throughout the game and in postgame availability, they, along with the returners, express their gratitude for the presence of the student section.
After a big play Russell in which he sank a layup headed into a timeout, Russell raced toward the student section.
“They’re electric and they come out every day we have a game and pack the student section,” Russell said. “So, I just wanted to give them something to cheer for.”