No. 13 Maryland men’s basketball capped off 2019 with a victory, as it pulled away late against Bryant for an 84-70 victory.
A lot of things happened, including the debut of 7’2 freshman Chol Marial. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Sunday’s action.
1. Aaron Wiggins got back on track shooting-wise
So far in his sophomore campaign, Wiggins has failed to shoot the ball effectively — at least compared to his stellar debut season in which he shot 41.3 percent on three-point attempts.
Entering Sunday’s tilt, he was shooting just 34.4 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from long range. His shooting woes were even worse as of late, as Wiggins made just 28.9 percent of his field goals and 26.1 percent of his triples in the team’s last four games before facing Bryant.
But against the Bulldogs, Wiggins had his first efficient shooting game since the Orlando invitational. In 32 minutes of action, he went 5-of-12 from the field and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc while also adding nine rebounds.
Aaron Wiggins pure from three. pic.twitter.com/wxj79152nb— Sean Montiel (@SeanMMontiel) December 29, 2019
The team as a whole also had a successful shooting performance, as it went 7-of-14 from three-point territory — its best percentage of the season.
“A lot of guys are just keying in and starting to be more confident with the shots they take,” Wiggins said. “Everybody is able to gather themselves and get back into the groove a little bit more with the break.”
It may just be one game — and the level of competition was low — but Wiggins certainly looked like his old self against the Bulldogs. The real test will be whether he can carry this performance into Big Ten play.
“It’s only a matter of time until Aaron starts getting [his shot] back,” Anthony Cowan Jr. said. “That’s the least of my worries.”
2. Maryland’s turnover woes continued
Through 10 games this season, Maryland’s passing seemed to be much-improved compared to last year’s squad.
The Terps averaged just 11.4 turnovers per game and possessed a 1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio — not elite, but a top-75 mark in the nation nonetheless. They also had a plus-3.3 turnover margin, which was the best of Turgeon’s tenure. Even with the faster offensive tempo, they were able to take care of the ball very well.
But since Dec. 8 — including Sunday against Bryant — the script has been flipped entirely. After a 16-turnover performance against the Bulldogs, Maryland has now averaged 17.7 over its last three games, over 35 percent worse than the first 10 matchups. The team also has just 31 assists in that span, which equates to a 0.59 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“We’ve turned it over more lately. Give Bryant a little credit today — a little discombobulated but we’re working on it,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “We’re better than that. But we’ll keep plugging and keep working.”
In a game that should’ve been somewhat stress-free, poor passing and bad decisions stopped the Terps from truly pulling away. Cowan had a stellar four-assist, zero-turnover outing, but the same couldn’t be said for the rest of the team.
Wiggins led the way with four giveaways, while Darryl Morsell and Jalen Smith had three apiece. And outside of Morsell and Cowan, no other Terp had more than one assist.
3. Free-throw shooting played a crucial role
Thanks to an abundance of size, giving it a dominant advantage over Bryant, Maryland controlled the paint on both ends of the court. The Terps outscored the Bulldogs in the paint by 10 points, and they also had a ridiculous plus-32 rebounding margin — including a 19-4 edge on the offensive glass.
Maryland’s excess in length and physicality also payed huge dividends at the charity stripe, where the team had its biggest advantage of the season.
The Terps went 25-of-32 — 78.1 percent — from the line on Sunday. Bryant, on the other hand, had just nine attempts all day, though it did hit eight of them.
. Turgeon’s team had a 17-point advantage at the line, its largest discrepancy of the season — its 23-shot edge in attempts also matched a season-high, tying the win over Harvard.
Cowan went a perfect 9-of-9 from the stripe to lead the team, while Wiggins, Morsell and Smith each had at least three makes on at least four attempts.
Free-throw shooting was a concern for the Terps early in the season, but over its last four games, they are now 72-91 (79.1 percent) from the line. Through their first nine games, they were hitting free throws at just a 69.7 percent clip.