Maryland men’s basketball dropped its Big Ten opener to No. 19 Rutgers at home, 74-60. While they kept it close in the first half, the Terps could not overcome shooting woes against one of the top teams in the country.
Mark Turgeon’s squad shot 4-for-20 (20%) from beyond the arc, and three of those four makes came from Donta Scott. For the game, the Terps shot just 34% from the field. When playing an opponent that shoots 48% from the field and 47% from three-point range, it’s an incredibly difficult task to win a game with the shooting numbers Maryland displayed.
Let’s dive into the film to see what happened to the Terps in their Big Ten opener.
Offensive execution was solid but poor shooting derailed Marylands offense
Compared to the previous game against Clemson, the offensive execution was solid for Maryland. The Terps ran more off-ball action and players weren’t standing on the perimeter ball-watching as they did against Clemson.
The problem against Rutgers was an inability to make shots from three-point range and inside. Below, we will break down plays where the Terps produced clean looks from three but could not knock them down.
On this play, Eric Ayala does a good job of getting downhill and coming to a two-foot jump stop. He uses his impeccable foot work to step through the defender and make a jump pass to find an open Aaron Wiggins in the corner. Wiggins gets a clean look, but can’t convert.
Wiggins is supposed to be one of Maryland’s top offensive options and was a legit NBA prospect coming into the year. However, he has struggled thus far, shooting just 27% from deep through the first six games.
Here is another solid job by Maryland to set up a clean look for Ayala, but he just can’t knock it down. Ayala feeds Jairus Hamilton at the top of the key, then fakes a cut and comes back to Hamilton at the top of the key for a screen-handoff type action. Hamilton sets a wide screen, which allows Ayala to get his feet set, but it ends up off the back iron.
Here is another example of an open three-point opportunity resulting in no points. This is a transition sequence for Maryland. Wiggins is pushing it down the floor and throws the ball to Hamilton on the left wing. No. 5 for Rutgers is now in a 1-on-2 situation. He decides to close out on Hamilton, who makes the right read in passing the ball to Darryl Morsell in the corner. Morsell gets a wide open look in the corner, which results in a miss.
In the postgame press conference, Turgeon alluded to a shoulder injury Morsell is suffering from which has affected his shooting. Nonetheless, these are the kinds of looks Maryland needs to make it it wants to compete with elite Big Ten teams such as Rutgers.
It wasn’t just the three-point shooting where the Terps struggled to get the ball in the back of the net. On this play, Maryland runs solid three-man action with Morsell, Scott and Galin Smith.
Smith catches the ball near the slot and Morsell cuts down to the baseline, acting like he is going through. Instead, Smith fakes the handoff to Scott and Morsell comes back up to receive a screen-handoff from Smith. Morsell attacks the rim with his defender on his back and gets a good look on the left side of the rim, but misses the bunny.
While most of the offense was ugly, let’s take a look at the few bright spots
Perhaps the only promising piece for the Terps over the last two games has been Donta Scott. The sophomore from Philadelphia notched a career-high 20 points against Rutgers and shot 3-for-5 from deep. On the last film breakdown, we highlighted how Scott can be utilized more in the offense with pick-and-pops.
Here, Maryland runs a play where Hakim Hart sets a cross screen on the low block for Scott to get a post up on the left block. Scott backs down his defender into a right hook shot, which he gets to go with only seconds remaining in the first half. Scott has emerged as a go-to option for Turgeon and is a legit three level scorer.
Earlier, we outlined Wiggins struggles offensively this year. This play is an example of what Turgeon should want to see more of from his junior wing. If Wiggins three-ball is not falling, he needs to be aggressive attacking the basket and finding other ways to score.
This is a perfect example of that. Wiggins attacks the basket, is patient in finding his spot and knocks down a short jumper.
First half defense was promising
While Maryland’s offense was dreadful, the Terps actually played solid defense throughout much of the game. Maryland held Rutgers to only 27 first half points, however, the offense just could not keep up the rest of the way.
Maryland was switching from a man-to-man look to a 3-2 zone defense during the first half. Let’s look at how this confused and limited Rutgers’ offense.
Maryland starts this possession in a 3-2 zone. Rutgers can't crack the zone and takes the shot clock all the way down. With just a few seconds remaining on the shot clock, a Rutgers guard tries to penetrate, but Scott steps up and forces him to pick up his dribble. He kicks it out and Hart recognizes the time on the shot clock, so he steps up for the contest from covering the man in the corner. Morsell is also there on the closeout, which forces a difficult three-pointer from Rutgers.
This is an encouraging display of team defense from the Terps. Smith is guarding his man in the post when Morsell sees an opportunity to double. Morsell doubles the post and Rutgers’ big kicks it out.
Hart moves on the flight of the ball and does a quality job of closing out and forcing the drive. When Rutgers’ guard drives the ball, Smith and Morsell are in a perfect position to help, forcing a tough finish at the rim for Rutgers.
This is excellent man-to-man defense from Maryland. Everyone on the Terps’ defense is in sync here, doing a great job of taking away driving lanes by being in help positions, recovering to close out quickly and having active hands and feet. Because of this, Rutgers is forced to take a contested three late in the shot clock that misses.
If Maryland can consistently switch up and have success in multiple defensive looks, it will bode well as it faces more tough Big Ten competition down the road. Then again, unless the Terps’ offense can get going, it may not be enough.