Maryland men’s basketball head coach Kevin Willard looked at a late November home stand as an opportunity for the Terps to gain confidence and stack wins before Big Ten play. Willard’s vision came to fruition with Maryland winning all three games comfortably, epitomized by a 103-76 win over Rider on Tuesday night.
It was the Terps’ first 100-point showing since 2021 and first against a Division I opponent since 2018.
Following a 1-3 start, including a blowout loss at Villanova, concerns were raised as to how good the Terps really were. While wins over UMBC, South Alabama and Rider do not fully answer these questions, a 21-point margin average of victory over that span is soothing.
“I kind of knew this is how the season was going to go, to be honest with you,” Willard said. “I knew we were going to struggle early ... I feel good, [but] I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Jordan Geronimo was one of the driving forces behind the Terps’ win Tuesday, using his physical strength to the tune of a career-high 15 points to go along with two steals. The Indiana transfer tallied 13 of his points in the first half, highlighted by three and-ones. After experimenting with starting lineups to begin the season, Willard seems to have found his fifth starter.
“I think Jordan Geronimo was playing with tremendous energy,” Willard said. “He’s exactly what I thought he would be for us. He’s doing some really good things on the defensive end. He’s protecting a lot of guys.”
Julian Reese also imposed his clear physical advantage. He scored 22 points and corralled 12 rebounds, giving the Broncs one solution: foul. Reese made 14 of his career-high 17 free-throw attempts, a significant uptick from his season average of 59 percent shooting from the line.
Maryland as a whole got to the free-throw line with ease in the first period, attempting 32 free throws — the most it’s shot in a half this season.
Jahmir Young tied Reese with a game-high 22 points, which included a 4-of-7 clip from three.
The Terps established a full-court press against Rider after nearly every made basket, an integral part of Willard’s nightly game plan. Maryland forced three turnovers in the first six minutes, which led to two Geronimo layups.
Rider hung tough early, but Jamie Kaiser Jr. made back-to-back threes to separate the two squads. Kaiser had made only one of his previous 17 attempts from distance, with the lone make being a half-court heave.
“I never lost confidence in Jamie,” Willard said. “Me, him and DeShawn [Harris-Smith] came in yesterday morning at 8 a.m. and we put up a good hour just shooting the basketball and watching the ball go in. And when you shoot with Jamie, you don’t even need a rebounder, to be honest with you. He’ll go 48 out of 50.”
The Broncs could not overcome the deficit for the rest of the game, as the Terps put the game away by the first-half buzzer with a 27-point lead.
The sizable advantage allowed Willard to empty his bench, playing walk-ons Lukas Sotell and Ben Murphy in the final minutes. Sotell scored his first points of the season on a fast break with under a minute remaining, which led to the Terps’ bench erupting with cheer.
Three things to know
1. Poor free-throw shooting. While the Terps tallied 45 free throws, they only made 29. Maryland is shooting 69 percent from the line on the season and left a lot to be desired in that department Tuesday.
2. Turnovers. Rider attempted a full-court press against Maryland in the first half, but the Terps broke it with ease. They turned Rider over 15 times, while committing just six giveaways of their own.
“You look at a few of our losses early, turnovers killed us,” Willard said. “So, I think these guys understand [the importance of] taking care of the ball and getting a shot up every time.”
3. Mervin James torched the Terps. James, the MAAC preseason player of the year, was one of the lone bright spots for Rider, recording 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting and totaling eight rebounds. His night was cut short, though, after he fouled out with just over five minutes remaining.