Maryland picked up its third straight win on Thursday night against Brown in its last nonconference game of the season.
As has become routine with Maryland this season, they got off to a slow start trailing Brown 39-35 at halftime before exploding in the second half to grab the win. Maryland struggled to knock down perimeter shots and was lost on defense in the first half before turning it around.
Interim head coach Danny Manning got another balanced scoring night from his five starters. Point guard Fatts Russell, who was a game-time decision for this game, had 18 points, while Eric Ayala led the way with 22 points. Four of Maryland starters were in double figures, and Wahab added seven points of his own. Hakim Hart continued his consistent play, adding 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting.
However, Maryland’s bench did not provide much help in the win. Four players came off the bench for Maryland totaling 43 minutes but contributed to just two points to the team’s total. The starters carried the way in this one, but Maryland is going to need bench contributions moving forward.
Maryland will now head into a challenging Big Ten schedule with an 8-4 record. It starts with Iowa on Jan. 3. But first, let’s take a look at some takeaways from Maryland’s win over Brown.
Donta Scott is starting to live up to expectation
Serious expectations surrounded forward Donta Scott entering his junior season as he showcased his ability to score in a variety of ways last year, all while playing out of position most of his time on the floor. There was a possibility Scott could have gone to the NBA draft following this season if he performed at an elite level.
That notion was squashed pretty quickly when Scott struggled through the early part of the season. Scott scored in double figures just twice through the team’s first six games and appeared to be forcing shots instead of allowing the game to come to him.
Scott is a three-level scorer, meaning he can get downhill, score in the post, operate in the mid-range and knock down three-pointers at a consistent level. Maryland fans have seen that version of Scott as of late. Scott has scored in double figures in five of the team's last six games. On Thursday night, Scott scored 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting.
Maryland is going to need a consistent, aggressive and efficient Scott in Big Ten play to make some noise in the conference.
“One thing for me that we’ve tried to work on with him [Scott], is I want him to play closer to the basket,” Manning said. “I’m okay with him shooting wide open jump shots, but I don’t want him always be floating on the perimeter.”
Maryland’s perennial slow starts are a serious problem
Against Lehigh on Tuesday night, Maryland had an excuse for starting off slow and trailing Lehigh early before coming back to enter halftime with just a three-point lead against a 1-9 team. The Terps would eventually come back in the second half en route to a dominating win.
Maryland hadn't played in over two weeks heading into that game, the Xfinity Center was dead and Lehigh was scheduled just days before, so the lack of energy and rust in the first half was somewhat justifiable. However, against Brown, there was no excuse for coming out with minimal energy and having as many defensive lapses as they did. Maryland trailed 39-35 at half after coming in as a double-digit favorite.
The shots certainly weren't falling as Maryland was 37% from the field and 0-for-7 from three, but the poor shot selection and a plethora of foul calls plagued the offense too.
Slow starts have become routine for Maryland this season. They have just led at halftime in three of its games this season. It’s part of what has contributed to the team's disappointing season so far. However, against many lesser, nonconference opponents, the Terps were able to overcome slow starts and escape with wins.
That was the case against Brown as Maryland outscored the Bears 46-28 in the second half. Maryland’s shooting improved drastically in the second half. They were 60% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc.
However, against the gauntlet of the Big Ten, that won't be able to happen. The competition in the conference is as good as it gets in the entire country and if Maryland comes out slow, most teams will take care of the Terps early. Big Ten play starts right after the new year, so Maryland has limited time to flip the switch on its poor starts, but if they have any chance of making a push toward March, it’s going to need to happen.
“We have to do a better job of coming out,” Manning said.
Fatts Russell was back on the court and playing at a high level for Maryland
Maryland and point guard Fatts Russell had a scare in the Terps last game on Tuesday when Russell drove the paint and banged knees with a Lehigh defender. Russell appeared to be in pain on the ground and had to be helped off the court.
After the game, Manning said Russell was walking around and smiling so it didn't appear to be too serious. Russell’s teammates also hinted at the fact Russell was dealing with some knee problems in practice the prior days.
Russell was listed as a game-time decision entering Thursday’s contest but was in the starting lineup when the ball was tipped. Russell wasn't just moving well against Lehigh, but he put together a phenomenal performance in the win. He looked like his normal, speedy himself as he played aggressive on-ball defense fighting through screens and he drove to the basket with similar quickness on offense that Maryland fans have got accustomed to watching.
The injury appeared to play no role in Russell’s performance as he went for 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting and dished out five assists.
However, after the game, Russell said it had been hurting yesterday and after the game, but he was playing on “adrenaline” during the game that allowed him not to think about it and play well. He also noted that he has gained a significant amount of mass since last season that allows him to play through small, nagging injuries.
Maryland as a team needs Fatts Russell on the court, but Russell’s backcourt partner Eric Ayala also needs his longtime friend on the court with him. Ayala, the team’s leading scorer, feeds off of Russell and the point guard allows Ayala to flourish as an off-ball scorer. When both guys are clicking, so is Maryland. The Terps are 7-1 this season when both guards score in double figures.
“We talked about getting in the rhythm and starting to find things and having an identity, so I feel like we have been doing that,” Russell said. “We’re getting better, we’re finally finding our rhythm.”