No. 23 Maryland men’s basketball improved to 6-0 on the season with an impressive 95-79 win over Coppin State in Juan Dixon’s homecoming to College Park as the Golden Eagles’ head coach.
While Coppin State hung around for much of the first half, Maryland began to pull away late on the heels of Julian Reese’s career day. Reese finished with a career-high 24 points, 22 of which were scored in the first half.
Although Coppin State put up a fight for its head coach, Maryland outlasted the Golden Eagles on Friday night.
Let’s get to some takeaways from the win.
Maryland legend Juan Dixon was welcomed back to College Park.
For the first time in his life, Juan Dixon came to College Park rooting against his alma mater. Dixon is one of the greatest players in Maryland basketball history as its all-time leading scorer, and he is also the head coach of Coppin State.
Maryland’s video board inside XFINITY Center flashed a montage in the second half, like it does every game. It’s a collection of Maryland basketball greats exclaiming they have “Maryland pride” in pre-recorded videos. One of the faces in the video is Dixon, who screams the slogan into a microphone with a crowd of students going crazy behind him.
As the best player on the only national championship team in Maryland men’s basketball history, Dixon certainly has Maryland pride. But for probably the only time in his life, Dixon’s Maryland pride was on pause as he was pulling for his Golden Eagles.
Dixon’s return was met with a warm reception from Maryland fans, who cheered as he was introduced prior to the game. Following his playing career at Maryland, Dixon was a first-round pick in the NBA Draft, where he played nine seasons before a brief stint overseas.
Soon after, Dixon got his start in coaching as a special assistant for Maryland under former head coach Mark Turgeon. He then coached women’s basketball at the University of the District of Columbia before taking over the men’s Coppin State program in 2017, where he’s in his sixth season.
Last spring, when Maryland was in the midst of a coaching search for the men’s basketball program, Dixon threw his name in the ring. Obviously, he did not get the job, likely because of his inexperience and inconsistent record at Coppin State.
Coaching in a gym where his name is in the rafters, Dixon’s intensity was evident on Friday evening. He was frequently getting into a defensive stance on the sideline and was animated as his team competed with the Terps throughout much of the contest.
“I love the way Juan coaches and I love the way his teams play, they play with an edge and an attitude. Obviously him coming back in the building, they were juiced up and fired up,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said.
Julian Reese had his way, leading to a career-high 24 points.
One game it’s the Donta Scott show, and another its Julian Reese’s turn. It’s one of the reasons this starting lineup is so well constructed and is clicking through six games. Depending on matchups, just about anyone in the starting lineup is capable of a dominant showing.
Against a small Coppin State team, Julian Reese had his way all game. Whether it was a textbook defensive stand leading to a block on one end or battling for an offensive rebound that led to a put-back bucket, Reese was the most resounding physical presence on the floor.
The Baltimore native had a new career high in points by the time the first half buzzer sounded, with 22 points in the first half on 9-for-9 shooting, eight rebounds and two blocks. He finished with 24 points for the game and a double-double.
Reese’s showing all season has been exactly what Maryland fans hoped would be the next step for the sophomore big man. He has been a smarter and more willing defender than last season and significantly more physical on offense, establishing position for post touches.
“I’m playing more aggressive on the floor,” Reese said. “It’s just confidence, really. If I play like that, we’re unstoppable.”
Reese has yet to play another prominent big this season, but he has had his way with every matchup he’s faced. Reese is averaging 15 points and eight rebounds on the season.
It’s an encouraging sign to see Reese gain confidence and show flashes of brilliance, particularly as the competition gets stiffer. He will have to face some of the best big men in the country in the Big Ten.
Maryland has shown it can score in a variety of ways.
In its wins over Saint Louis and Miami, Maryland paraded in threes, allowing it to get off to a fast start and never look back in dominant wins over premier teams. But against Coppin State on Friday, the three-ball wasn't falling and Maryland had to find alternative ways to score.
The Terps shot just 19% from three, continuing its struggles from three at home this season. Maryland is shooting 23.5% in its four games at the XFINITY Center and 42% in its two games away from College Park.
“We haven’t shot the ball very good at home, we shot it well on the road,” Willard said.
But it didn’t matter, as Maryland used dribble-drives to get downhill and attack the basket. Maryland had 54 points in the paint against the Golden Eagles and controlled the game near the rim. The Terps made only four threes but still managed to score 95 points, tied for their largest scoring output of the season.
While it won’t always be as easy to dominate inside against bigger teams moving forward, it does say a lot about this roster that it can score even when it is cold from the outside. While Reese led the way, senior guard Hakim Hart continued his stellar play with 22 points. Transfer guard Jahmir Young was also in double figures with 21 points, the first time since 2002 three separate Terps scored 20 or more in the same game.