With Maryland men’s basketball already holding a double-digit lead in the first half and looking to cement an emphatic first-half performance in its first real test of the season, Maryland forward Julian Reese stuffed Saint Louis guard Yuri Collins’ layup attempt.
Guard Don Carey pushed the ball in transition before delivering a pass to backcourt counterpart Jahmir Young on the right wing. Young let it go from deep, watching the ball soar in the air before dropping in the bottom of the net to give Maryland a 15-point lead.
Sequences like that were plentiful Saturday afternoon in Uncasville, Connecticut, as Maryland put on a clinic on both sides of the floor en route to a dominant 95-67 win over Saint Louis.
A balanced scoring attack helped the Terps jump out to an early lead as five players scored double-digit points with Donta Scott leading the way with a career high 25 points.
“I think everybody is really locked in. We’re working hard, it’s a great group, they’re unselfish,” head coach Kevin Willard said.
With the win, Maryland advances to the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip Off Classic championship game on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Terps will play the winner of the Providence-Miami game later Saturday afternoon.
It was all Maryland through the first four minutes of Saturday’s matinee. It started with consistently tough defensive sequences that featured full-court man-to-man defense, preventing Saint Louis from finding any offensive rhythm.
The tough defensive stand where Maryland held Saint Louis without a point for over three minutes led to an 8-0 run that gave the Terps an early 10-2 lead, punctuated by an and-one three from Carey.
“Once you play great defense, it leads to great offense,” Scott said.
Maryland entered Saturday's contest shooting 25% from 3-point range, which worried Willard, he admitted. While expressing some concern, Willard also acknowledged there are good shooters on his roster and the problem was they were taking “rushed,” instead of in-rhythm, threes.
For the Terps to knock off a team that averages 88 points per game, improving its 3-point percentage was essential.
Leading the way in Maryland’s shooting woes was Carey, Maryland’s two-guard who is considered a sharp-shooter. In the first three games, he made just two threes on 14 attempts. In Maryland’s first half away from home this season, Carey eclipsed his season total in threes, nailing four in the first half for a season-high 12 points. He finished with 16.
“Coach Willard’s really been emphasizing inside-out threes, so just penetrating, getting in the paint and then making the reads and kicking out to teammates,” Carey said.
After its emphatic start, Maryland never let Saint Louis catch it, answering every Billiken punch with a three or fast-break bucket on the other end.
A 10-0 run later in the half widened the gap between the Terps and the Billikens.
Combine the sharp-shooting from distance with Maryland’s unmatched defensive intensity and the Terps’ first half was by far the best of the season given the competition.
Whether it was Young jumping in the passing lane for a steal, Reese blocking a shot at the rim, or the entire Terps defense rotating in sync, Maryland’s defensive prowess was a thing of beauty in the first half.
Maryland entered the break with a 51-27 lead while shooting 47% from three and holding the Billikens to 25% shooting from the field. Maryland forced Saint Louis into eight turnovers in the half.
Maryland’s intensity didn't waver in the second half as the Terps continued to contest shots at a high rate and push the ball in transition.
An evenly-matched second half favored the Terps, who already held a 20-plus point lead. There was nothing Saint Louis could draw up that the Terps weren't prepared for.
Willard played his starters for much of the second half, despite the large lead. Scott’s versatility was on full display, but Ian Martinez impressed off the bench with a season-high 14 points.
Three things to know
1. Maryland didn't just pass its first test, it aced it. Maryland played some weak competition in its first three games, and while it took care of business — winning all of them by at least 20 points — there wasn’t a lot to take away from those games. However, in its first real test of the season, a game in which Maryland was an underdog, it put on a clinic. This weekend was going to tell fans a lot about this iteration of Maryland basketball, and with one game in the books, there’s a lot for Maryland fans to be happy about. Now, Maryland has its second game of a back-to-back on Sunday at 1 p.m. when it faces the winner of Miami vs. Providence.
2. Maryland’s 3-point shooting woes are no more. It took Don Carey a few games to settle into his new team, but his stroke was as advertised on Saturday. He drained four threes on 10 attempts. But it wasn’t just him raining it in from long range, Maryland as a team shot 41% from three. Scott, Hakim Hart and Young combined for five threes.
3. Maryland’s stars showed out. For the first time all season, Maryland’s stars showcased why they are just that: the stars of this Maryland team. Prior to Saturday, each starter had their moment in separate games, but to have the dominant performance Maryland had against Saint Louis, everyone needed to chip in. Scott, Hart, Carey, Young and Martinez all reached double figures Saturday, with Scott leading the way with 25 and Hart contributing 16. Julian Reese’s numbers don't stand out in the box score, but he made a huge impact defensively, and rebounded it well.