Maryland men’s basketball starts its season 2-0 after picking up a calm 53-point victory at home over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Sunday. It was the Terps’ first win at the Xfinity Center in over seven months, and the first without Melo Trimble since 2014. This one was never in doubt.
The Terps put together a fairly complete performance in front of a home crowd of 13,914. There wasn’t much to criticize—save for the 12 missed free throws—but here are some things that stood out to us.
This team has some defensive potential.
Lamar: Despite the fact Maryland started the season with two relatively undersized and overmatched teams, the Terps are looking like an improved team on the defensive side of the ball. Two nights after holding Stony Brook to a 36.5 percent from the field, Maryland followed up by holding Maryland-Eastern Shore to 33.9 percent.
The Terps were also able to disrupt the Hawks’ offensive flow with a variety of lineups featuring lengthy defenders. Mark Turgeon has a fair amount of depth to work with, and Maryland’s length and effort resulted in seven blocks and six steals. Bruno Fernando and Michal Cekovsky each had two rejections, while Anthony Cowan added three steals to his team-high 16 points and nine rebounds.
“We’ve practiced hard and I think it’s carried over into our games,” Turgeon said of the Terps’ defense after the win. “I think we really locked in about the 10-minute mark of the first half and the 14-minute mark of the second half. ... When you have depth, you can do that.”
While all of this needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as Maryland has only faced two players over 6’10 this season, the Terps have 30 more defensive rebounds than their first two opponents. Maryland’s showing effort on the defensive end, and hopefully that translates to Big Ten play.
This team will scrap its way to several wins this season.
Jared: The Terps look more athletic than they have in recent seasons, and will play a number of small-ball lineups as the year goes on. Darryl Morsell brings some of that Baltimore swagger the team’s been lacking for quite a while, while Fernando can just be downright mean in the paint. Sean Obi looks like the best rebounder Maryland has had in recent memory, and though he’ll only play in spurts, he should provide the Terps with extra possessions that can help put points on the board, or keep the other team off of it.
It’s not just those three, though. Cowan can run by an entire defense, while Jared Nickens, Dion Wiley and Justin Jackson can knock down shots from the outside. Granted, there’s no guarantee that the Terps fire on all cylinders every time they step on the court; in fact, it’s unlikely. But with the variety and volume of weapons available, they should be able to compete with most, if not all, of their opponents.
“We’re trying to run more because we have more athletes this year,” Wiley said. “I think we’re longer, and we can play more lineups. [We’re] more versatile, so I think running is our specialty.”
The small-ball lineups should be a big weapon this season.
Thomas: Maryland started the game with two big men side-by-side. Fernando recorded his first career start and was paired down low with Cekovsky, but that dynamic didn’t seem to work. Turgeon said after the game that starting two bigs “probably wasn’t very smart on my part,” although the Terps will need that size against the bigger teams on their schedule.
Instead, this game was dominated by small, athletic lineups, usually with just one big man. Ivan Bender had some strong results as the small-ball center, as did Fernando and even Justin Jackson. Lineups featuring three guards and Nickens showed plenty of promise.
Playing small-ball does come at the expense of some of Maryland’s rotational big men, specifically Obi and Joshua Tomaic, neither of whom saw action in the first half. Obi pulled down five offensive rebounds in eight second-half minutes; the Terps will always have a demand for that. But Maryland has more style-of-play options than it’s enjoyed in the past, and that should continue to show.