Welcome back to the Testudo Times film room. Ugly wins are still wins, and that couldn’t be more true after No. 9 Maryland men’s basketball worked its way to a 56-51 victory over Rutgers to improve to 18-4 on the season and jump to a tie for first place in the Big Ten.
Jalen Smith’s emergence into a superstar in college basketball was on full display once again in College Park as the sophomore from Baltimore recorded a career-high six blocks in the win over the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers is a team known for its defense, and it showed throughout this game, holding the Terps to no field goals for almost half of the first half of play and again during the final five plus minutes of the game. But Maryland was able to match Rutgers’ defensive intensity and come out with a win.
Let’s take a look at all of the key plays from the game.
Best plays of the night
Basketball is a game of momentum, and with this play, the Terps completely shifted the momentum of the entire game. Although the contest got extremely close after this play, this sequence really felt like the shift in the game in which the Terps took control and never really looked back.
Eric Ayala got the ball in transition and brought the ball up the floor with a three-on-two advantage. He then delivered a beautiful no-look pass to Smith, who threw it down all over his Rutgers defender for the poster slam, which ignited the crowd into a frenzy.
The other play of the game also came from Smith, but on the defensive end. Smith was in the paint covering his man, but made a great read and rotated over to help Anthony Cowan Jr, who let his man get past him.
Smith stepped up and delivered his sixth and final block of the night to all but seal the deal for the Terps and bring home the win.
Jalen Smith’s emergence has made Maryland a different team
While he may have only scored 14 points — a small figure compared to his usual numbers during this five game winning streak — Smith’s impact was felt all over the court from the opening play.
The Wooden Award Top-20 candidate knocked down two threes from the top of the key to get things going for Maryland off the jump and avoid the slow start, which plagued the team earlier this season.
On this play, Maryland was in a five-out set, which has worked extremely well for it this season. Smith rotated to the top of the key after Ayala began to drive and was able to free himself open for the three-pointer.
What made Smith’s play on the defensive end so impactful was that it often led to points on the other end for the Terps. On this play, the sophomore stood his ground after his man received the inbound pass, and he was then able to make a big block and rebound to get the Terps out in transition for the easy Morsell layup.
Smith was a monster on the glass all night long, recording 15 total boards to go along with his 14 points and career-high six blocks.
This play was another case of Smith’s superb defense leading to points at the other end. After his block, Cowan saved the ball from going out of bounds and then brought the ball up in transition.
Smith trailed Cowan’s drive and posted up right at the top of the key, which seems to be his favorite spot these days, and nailed the big time triple to give the Terps their first lead since midway through the first half.
Anthony Cowan Jr. was as clutch as ever
Maryland went a really long time without scoring a field goal during this final stretch of the first half and into the second half, but this play from Cowan was huge to allow the Terps to only go into the break down five points.
After a few misses and offensive rebounds, he fearlessly went into the paint and took the foul, which led to two made free throws. Sometimes when nothing is falling offensively, a team needs someone to step up and drive to the rim and get the line, and Cowan did exactly that on this play.
Cowan hit a number of clutch shots down the stretch of this game, but this one was particularly impressive as he helped the Terps extend their lead to eight late in the second half. On this play, Maryland successfully executed a nice inbounds play that had Morsell set a screen for Cowan, which freed him up for the open three.
Darryl Morsell continued to be the ultimate glue guy and more
Darryl Morsell’s contribution to the win could not have been more impactful for the Terps. He took good shots, rebounded the ball extremely well and made the most of his big time free throws down the stretch.
On this play, the Terps ran a dribble handoff with Cowan and Morsell, and it worked to perfection. Cowan’s screen freed Morsell up to get to the hoop, and the junior did the rest by splitting the two big men in the middle to get to the hoop for the big slam.
One aspect of Morsell’s game that has been mentioned in previous film room articles has been his ability to finish around the rim. He has been aggressive all season long, but he went through a tough stretch that saw him miss a lot of looks around the hoop.
However, against Rutgers and last week against Iowa, Morsell made it clear that he has shaken off his struggles around the rim. On this play, the guard picked up the offensive rebound, took a power dribble to get to the basket and then finished with the pump fake to get the hoop.
Morsell has really been the glue for this Maryland team all season long, and if he can keep putting together performances like he did against Rutgers, Iowa and Indiana, Mark Turgeon’s squad will be in a really good place as the season winds down and the calendar turns to March.