Despite a slow start, Maryland men’s basketball dominated St. Peters, 75-45, after eight days of rest to snap a three-game losing streak.
Sophomore forward Julian Reese was out with a right shoulder injury, and while his absence was noticeable, it didn’t matter too much against a bad Peacocks team that had a ton of roster turnover after a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament last season.
Graduate forward Patrick Emilien replaced Reese in the starting lineup and impressed with 10 points. He was one of three Terps in double figures, joining transfer guard Jahmir Young with 14 and senior guard Hakim Hart with 20. Ian Martinez also made his second career start while Don Carey came off the bench.
While the Terps couldn’t buy a 3-pointer in the first half, they got scorching hot in the second half, leading to a demolition.
Let’s get to some takeaways.
Julian Reese was out of the lineup, which led to a rebounding nightmare.
Starting center Julian Reese suffered a shoulder injury in the first half of the team’s game against UCLA eight days ago, forcing him to sit the second half. After the game, Willard said he didn't believe it to be too serious, but he sat for precautionary reasons.
However, when Willard spoke to reporters on Wednesday he said Reese was “day-by-day” and he was taking it “real slow” with him. While the severity of the injury is unknown, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Reese did not suit up on Thursday, as sources told Testudo Times he has not practiced with the team since the UCLA game. That, combined with the fact St. Peter’s is a weaker opponent, gave Willard good reason to give his big man prolonged rest.
It remains to be seen when Reese will begin practicing with the team and how much more rehab he will have to do to get his shoulder to 100%. It wouldn't be surprising if he also sat out against UMBC on Dec. 29 to ensure he is ready to go for Maryland’s tough Big Ten gauntlet, beginning at Michigan on Jan. 1.
Maryland is incredibly thin in its frontcourt with Reese as the only true big in the rotation. Even with Reese, Maryland is a small team. Without him, they have no choice but to play exclusively small-ball lineups. Emilien replaced Reese in the starting lineup against St. Peter’s and had a noteworthy performance; He had a season-high 10 points.
Although Maryland cruised to a victory, Reese’s absence was evident in the rebounding battle. St Peter’s dominated Maryland on the glass to start the game and ended up out-rebounding the Terps 38-30.
St. Peter’s has some size and one of its strengths is rebounding, but the Peacocks are nothing compared to some of the teams the Terps will face in the Big Ten. One thing was clear from Thursday’s game: If Reese has to miss any time against conference opponents, Maryland is in serious trouble.
Kevin Willard tinkered with the starting lineup for the first time this season.
It’s no secret to everyone that Georgetown transfer guard Don Carey has struggled shooting the ball this season. Carey came to College Park as a sharpshooter, connecting on 39% of his 3-pointers last season. However, he’s in a serious slump right now, shooting just under 12% from three at home.
After Maryland’s loss to Tennessee earlier this month, Willard proclaimed his team is going to have to outshoot teams from 3-point land to beat them. If Carey is ice cold, he has little value in the lineup. Carey’s cold shooting forced Willard to remove him from the starting lineup in favor of Ian Martinez on Thursday, who has been solid off the bench all season.
Martinez had his best shooting night against UCLA last week, finishing with a season high 16 points on 4-for-5 shooting from deep, albeit many of those points came in garbage time in a blowout loss.
Martinez immediately made an impact against St. Peter’s, scoring four of Maryland’s first six points. Martinez’s development from last season to this one has been remarkable. Martinez is confident, decisive, shooting the ball well and playing high-quality perimeter defense. While he dealt with some injuries last season, Martinez was a turnover-prone, poor decision-maker who was not a legitimate threat as a scorer.
“I think he is a little more disciplined on the basketball court,” Willard said earlier this week. “He understands what his role with us is and the biggest thing for me is he’s just getting more comfortable in what he can do on the court, not only offensively, but defensively.”
It is common for shooters who are struggling to move to the second unit in an attempt to find their rhythm off the bench. But that wasn’t the case for Carey in his first game off the bench. He finished with five points on 1-for-6 shooting from deep. Despite the cold shooting, Carey led the team in rebounding and dished out four assists.
Willard has a tough decision to make moving forward as to who will be starting at the two-guard position. If Carey can’t turn his cold streak into a hot spell, it might be hard for Willard to move him back into the starting lineup.
Maryland’s trend of good defense and a poor shooting start continued.
Kevin Willard’s first team as Maryland’s head coach is beginning to establish an identity with 12 games down and 19 to go. Akin to Willard’s team’s at Seton Hall, this iteration of Maryland basketball plays with tremendous intensity on defense, making it difficult for opponents to consistently score.
Maryland fans have seen that all season — other than the UCLA game. While the Terps’ offense was better earlier in the year, their defense carried them to most of their wins and even gave them a chance to beat Wisconsin and Tennessee.
Against St. Peter’s, Maryland’s defense looked sharp once again. It got back to its pressing ways while staying aggressive against opposing guards. Maryland forced 17 turnovers that led to 24 points off turnovers. When Maryland is at its best, its defense is its strong suit.
However, a different trend continued for Maryland on Thursday, one the Terps wish they could snap. Once again, Maryland struggled to shoot the ball from the outside to start the game. The Terps shot 25% from deep in the first half.
In its last four games, Maryland has averaged 23.5% shooting from long range in the first half. Those cold starts in its previous three games led to lopsided deficits too big to overcome. Against a bad St. Peter’s team, it was easy to overcome. In fact, the Terps were scorching hot from three in the second half, connecting on 56% of their attempts.
While that proves the Terps have capable shooters and should be a viable 3-point threat, it’s a huge concern how cold Maryland has been to start games. As the new year approaches, Maryland will have to find a solution to its poor shooting starts before it is consistently digging itself out of a hole against Big Ten teams.