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TT court vision: Dominant guard play leads the way in win over Rhode Island

We take to the film room to examine key plays that led to the Terps’ 73-55 win over the Rams.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Welcome to TT court vision! After each Maryland men’s basketball game this season, I will head to the film room to break down some of the best, worst and maybe even some laughable plays that took place.

We’ll start with the No. 7 Terps’ 73-55 win over Rhode Island Saturday night at Xfinity Center. Maryland started this game extremely slow, committing 11 turnovers within the first 10 minutes of the game. After that slow start however, the Terps turned it around and put together a near perfect second half of basketball.

Maryland was led in this game by its strong guard play, particularly from Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins, as well as Anthony Cowan Jr., who didn't even score his first points of the game until early in the second half before ending with 14 points.

Here are some of the best plays of the game from the win.

Eric Ayala rose to the occasion in key moments

Offensively, Ayala was really the spark that got the Terps going off a slow start. After coming off the bench rather than his usual starting role, the sophomore guard immediately made his presence felt with a strong drive to the basket that resulted in an and-one opportunity.

Here, the Terps display some great ball movement that leads to a great look by Serrel Smith Jr. that he fails to convert. Maryland was then able to grab the second chance opportunity and Ayala did not let it go to waste, hitting a much needed 3-point basket.

Ayala showed last year that he is a very capable shooter from beyond the arc, knocking down just over 40 percent of his shots from long distance. When he misses, though, it is usually a product of good defense or his inability to get his feet set for the shot.

Here however, Ayala is wide open and able to get his shot lined up perfectly to produce the score.

On this sequence, Jalen Smith finds Ayala in transition and the guard is able to convert the basket with the foul. From this point forward the Terps did not look back and easily cruised to their second win of the season. Ayala takes it to the basket so strong, and this skill should serve him well as the season progress, especially on nights when he may not be shooting the ball particularly well.

Anthony Cowan Jr. lit up the second half

It was not the most efficient game for Cowan only converting four of his 12 attempts from the field, but he led the way for the Terps in the second half of this game. Here he uses his incredible explosiveness to blow by his defender and create an opportunity for two at the line.

Cowan’s speed and ability to get to the basket are among the best in the country. During games like Saturday’s when the shot is not necessarily there, the senior leader will need to utilize these skills to stay involved in the game and we saw that with his second half adjustments.

Cowan again showcased his speed later in the second half with a beautiful drive to the hoop. His ability to finish this lay-up amidst tough defense and get the ball right where it needed to be at the top of the backboard proves how far Cowan has come over the course of his four years in College Park. Few players in college basketball would be able to finish this drive in the way that Cowan did.

Aaron Wiggins was in his groove

Wiggins was able to shake off the rust after a rough first game of the season against Holy Cross that saw him only score nine points and miss all six of his 3-point attempts.

Here, the sophomore guard was able to bail the Terps out after a stagnant offensive sequence that saw the shot clock nearly expire before Wiggins hits the corner three.

This was one of two made three-point attempts for Wiggins on the night. As the best three-point shooter on the team based off of last season’s numbers (41.3 percent), Wiggins success from beyond the arc will be crucial for the Terps as the season moves along.

On this sequence Wiggins was the beneficiary of the success of Maryland’s 1-3-1 zone that they implemented mid way through the first half. Wiggins gets the steal at the top of the zone and is able to finish a wild drive to the basket.

Here we see Wiggins showing off a skill we rarely saw from him last season, scoring in the post. Before receiving the entry pass from Darryl Morsell at the top of key, Wiggins was able to establish position inside the paint, leading to an and-one opportunity for the team’s best free throw shooter.

Other Standout Plays

While the Terps were aided a lot by their guards during the win over Rhode Island, it was actually Smith who led the team in scoring with 19 points.

The sophomore forward struggled at times during this game offensively, but really excelled late in the game, as well as cleaning up the offensive glass. Smith finished with 11 rebounds, four of which were offensive ones. Here we see him with a nice put back slam early in the first half.

Many of Smith’s points came late in the second half, but on this sequence, he shows why he is one of the most dominant big men in the country.

Smith gets the ball on the baseline and then bullies his defender into the paint, gathers and converts a flawless hook shot that will certainly have NBA scouts pleased.

Maryland’s defense was absolutely overwhelming and dominant, especially in the second half. The Terps held the Rams to just 29.9% shooting from the field for the game.

Head coach Mark Turgeon utilized a 1-3-1 zone to get the Terps back in the game during the first half, but on this sequence it was man to man that got the job done.

Donta Scott, Cowan and Wiggins perfectly trapped the Rhode Island player which led to Smith’s second block of the game. If the Terps can play defense like they did during the second half of this game, it could be a special season for this team.