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TT Court Vision: Reviewing Aaron Wiggins’ sophomore season

We take to the film room to look at the 2020 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year’s top plays from the 2019-20 season.

Aaron Wiggins, Michigan, 2020 Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Jordan already broke down Jalen Smith’s sophomore campaign, and Lila examined Anthony Cowan Jr.’s final season in College Park Tuesday.

So next up is Aaron Wiggins, who earned Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year honors after his sophomore season.

The Greensboro, North Carolina, native had a very productive freshman year, averaging 8.3 points per contest off ton 41.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Wiggins began the 2019-20 season starting 16 games for head coach Mark Turgeon before moving into a permanent sixth man role against Iowa Jan. 18. From that point on, Wiggins was really the only consistent player that Turgeon brought off the bench, pushing him into a sort of “sixth starter” role.

Wiggins is largely known for his ability to shoot the three-point shot, but there are other aspects of his game that go unnoticed at times. When he wasn’t draining shots from deep, Wiggins was attacking the rim, pulling up from mid-range and snatching passes out of the air with his long reach.

Let’s look at some of Wiggins’ best plays from the 2019-20 season.

Wiggins’ 2019-20 final stat line: 10.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.42 assists per game, 37.7 percent field goal percentage, 31.7 percent three-point percentage, 71.7 percent free-throw percentage

Three-point shooting

As previously mentioned, Wiggins is known for his shot from deep due to his number from his 2018-19 campaign. He didn’t put up the same number this season but made some big shots when his team needed him to do so.

While Cowan was clearly the closer for Maryland — hence his performance against Michigan State — Wiggins seemed to be a valuable option for the team to end the first 20 minutes of play.

With Maryland holding onto a nine-point lead, the team went to a set play to its faithful three-point threat in Wiggins. The sophomore seemed to lull his defender to sleep as his head turned to watch Darryl Morsell control the ball and get open for the three-point bucket, capping off a 14-2 run at the end of the half.

The reason Wiggins was able to get so open so quickly was his effort to cut hard and fast to the top of the key. His off-ball movement doesn’t get enough credit and this was a great example on how he moved to get open and give his team a boost.

Wiggins finished with 15 points, which was the most he had produced through the first five games of the season on 3-of-7 shooting from deep.

Though it may not have been as intentional against Illinois, the Terps once again went to Wiggins with the last possession of the first half.

The GIF does not demonstrate this, but the Fighting Illini grabbed an offensive board and converted a layup in the final seconds of play before Maryland inbounded the ball to Ayala. The sophomore guard took one dribble and threw it ahead to Wiggins.

Once again, Wiggins demonstrated his talent to move off ball and positioned himself in a perfect place along the sideline to catch and shoot. Without hesitation, the sophomore looks the ball into his mitts, squares up and lets it fly.

Wiggins’ score brought the Terps’ once 14-point deficit to only two points going into halftime.

I’ve talked a lot about how Wiggins has been the go-to guy right before halftime for Maryland — but this time was different.

This time, Wiggins came up clutch for the Terps in the final minute of the second half.

After Cowan tipped a crucial Hoosier pass that fell into the arms of Smith, Maryland attempted to capitalize. Cowan received the ball from Smith and looked for an answer — though it was difficult with no advantage on offense. The senior guard, who has taken and made many big shots this season, tosses the ball behind him to Wiggins.

Instead of forcing a difficult shot with a Hoosier defender standing right in front of him, Wiggins took one dribble and stepped back, forcing the defender to choose between Wiggins or Cowan to take the final shot. Instead, Wiggins launched and made the three pointer, cutting the Terps’ deficit to only one.

Though Smith may receive a lot of credit for his play at Indiana, this play was crucial for Maryland to steal a game at Assembly Hall.

A smooth mid-range game

When Wiggins is faced with a strong close out, he has the quickness and ball handling ability to beat his defender off the dribble. When you mix that with his 6’6 frame, it makes it very difficult to block his pull-up jump shot.

Wiggins didn’t utilize this aspect of his game very much, but when he did, it was very effective.

With Maryland holding onto a four-point lead, Wiggins received the ball from Smith, who then set a screen for the sophomore. Instead of trying to attempt a three-pointer over two Spartans, Wiggins used his dribble before being cut off by Michigan State’s Aaron Henry.

With his path cut off, Wiggins rose up and shot it over the smaller defender for two points. Though that was midway through the first half, Wiggins wasn’t able to build any momentum off the score and finished with seven points.

Though I wouldn’t consider this shot “midrange” on this play, I still think it’s important to highlight Wiggins’ move to the middle of the paint after he had no shot available at the three-point line.

Following his pump fake, Wiggins took two dribbles to the middle until CJ Walker reached, forcing the sophomore to go to a behind-the-back dribble. He then gathered his balance with one more dribble and put up a floater over Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson.

Wiggins is not just a three-point shooter, and this play is a perfect example of that. The sophomore beat three different Buckeyes in a matter of seconds for two of his career-high 20 points he scored in this contest.

With a one-on-one opportunity with Minnesota's Tre Williams, Wiggins tries to drive to the middle of the lane but is cut off. Wiggins then backs down the 6’5 Williams and creates a bit of separation with his left shoulder.

After earning some space, Wiggins rises up and knocks down the fadeaway jumpshot with a soft touch.

Wiggins was largely expected to be a threat from deep this season — and at times he was — but the sophomore was also very impactful with his mid-range game.

Defensive presence

One area Wiggins drastically improved on in 2019-20 was his defense — something he embraced this season. With his long reach, Wiggins was able to snag passes and give Smith some assistance down low with his rim protecting ability.

The sophomore averaged 1.2 steals per game and was the first player since D.J. Strawberry in 2004 to put together three-straight games with at least three steals, which came in the first three games of the season.

On this play, Wiggins grabs the lazy George Mason pass and takes it in for the easy two. When the sophomore was at the top of the 1-2-2 full-court defense, it made it very difficult for passes like this to be converted.

This is a great example of Wiggins’ length and athleticism all in one.

Though nearly three months a part, these two plays were very similar. While Wiggins is playing help defense, he continues to keep an eye on the ball. So when his opponent decides to throw a lazy pass, he utilizes his length and poke the ball away with one arm.

From there, it is just a foot race for the loose ball, which ends up in the hands of Wiggins. He takes advantage of the open floor and throws it down with authority both times.

Rim-rocking expertise

Speaking of throwing it down, that leads us to the next aspect of Wiggins’ game that I would like to highlight: his dunking.

While those slams were in the open court, Wiggins can still throw it down in the half court off the dibble.

On this play, Wiggins’ defender reached for the ball, causing the sophomore to utilize his powerful spin move. After the Terp beat his defender, Purdue sophomore forward Trevion Williams had to decide whether to help on Wiggins to stay home against Smith — but it didn’t matter.

Wiggins took one dribble and lifted up just a step in from the Big Ten logo, threw down the jam and left the crowd with a little flex after.

On this play, Wiggins hesitated as if he was going to let the three-point attempt fly. But instead, he noticed the wide-open lane and drove to the cup.

With Marquette’s defense in panic mode, Wiggins could have passed the ball to Morsell outside the arc but decided to take it to the rim with no Golden Eagles halting him.

For the first time in the 2019-20 season the Terps started the game with a lot of energy, and even though this dunk was early in the second half, it only added to their momentum en route to an Orlando Invitational championship.

I saved the best for last. This received the No. 1 spot in our top-10 dunks of the season and was one of the most exciting plays of the season.

Once again, Maryland went to Wiggins in the final second of the first half but he missed. Instead of shrugging his shoulders and fading away, Wiggins immediately followed his shot, grabbed the board and three down the dunk to electrify Xfinity Center.

It was by far one of the most athletic and electrifying plays of the 2019-20 season.