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TT Court Vision: A look at Eric Ayala’s sophomore campaign for the Terps

We take to the flim room to examine the top plays from the guard during the 2019-20 season.

Eric Ayala, Michigan, 2020 Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Throughout last week, we’ve highlighted Jalen Smith, Anthony Cowan Jr., Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell in our individual player film breakdowns.

Next up, we take a look at sophomore guard Eric Ayala.

Ayala is one of the most interesting players on the Maryland men’s basketball roster, in that all the potential is there but he has not been able to fully put it together yet as a consistent star for the Terps. He will have games where he looks like he is amongst the best players on the floor, but also games where he looks amongst the worst.

Big things were expected from Ayala during his sophomore season, and he delivered in some occasions and failed in some spots as well. The biggest concern for him as he enters his junior season will be his consistency as a shooter.

As a freshman, Ayala shot the ball at an excellent clip from three, shooting 40.3 percent from deep on 3.8 attempts per game. As a sophomore, Ayala saw a significant dip to 27.4 percent from three on 4.7 attempts per game.

Ayala’s 2019-20 final stat line: 8.5 points, 2.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. He shot 35.8 percent from the field and 27.4 percent from three.

Let’s take a look at 10 of Ayala’s best plays from this past season.

Ayala is extremely crafty in getting to and finishing around the rim

One of Ayala’s best traits as a basketball player is his awareness on offense. He was often seen filling a lane correctly or making a nice cut to the basket. On these two identical plays against Ohio State and Nebraska, he made a perfect cut to the basket in route to a made layup.

The backdoor cut was something we saw often from Ayala when he played off the ball, and he did a good job on these two plays of making sure the Terps got easy buckets as a result.

Arguably Ayala’s best ability is his finishing around the rim and the finesse and skill he possesses in making these crafty finishes. This play against Illinois was a perfect example of how smooth Ayala can be around the rim.

Ayala brought the ball up in transition for the Terps and immediately recognized the mismatch he had going up against a big. His initial play here was a step-back for a mid-range jumper, but he decided instead to take it to the rim. The sophomore used a spin move and was somehow able to finish the extremely tough reverse layup.

On this play, Ayala turned great defense into easy offense. He initially got beat off the dribble, but he was able to recover and force the deflection, which led to the Smith steal.

Smith took a few dribbles and immediately passed it ahead to Ayala, who was out ahead of the pack in transition. He was met around the rim by the Notre Dame defense, but Ayala was able to power his way through for the big slam to bring the Xfinity Center crowd to its feet.

Ayala had his moments from beyond the arc

Ayala had his best game of the year in the last contest of the season against Michigan. He scored a season-high 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor, along with a career-high seven rebounds. It really seemed like he was starting to find his groove down the stretch, which was key with postseason play on the horizon.

On this play, Ayala used a step-back dribble to put his defender on skates and create the necessary space needed to get a good shot off. He squared up after the step-back and converted the big three-pointer to help extend the Terps’ lead after a run by Michigan.

As mentioned before, Ayala’s awareness on offense is amongst the best on the Maryland squad. He always knew where to move when he didn’t have the ball and set himself up for great looks.

This play was a great example of Ayala’s ability to move without the ball and set himself up for an open three. It started with him kicking out to the three-point line, which created separation between him and his defender.

After that, Darryl Morsell began to penetrate, which further separated Ayala and his man. The sophomore then rotated towards the corner, allowing Morsell to hit him for a wide-open triple, which he knocked down.

This play against Nebraska was another example of Ayala doing a nice job of moving without the ball.

Donta Scott set a strong off-ball screen on Ayala’s man, which led to the Wilmington, Delaware, floating out more towards the wing. Anthony Cowan Jr. recognized this and was able to find the sophomore for the open knock down three.

On this play, Ayala simply did a nice job of trailing the break, finding an open spot and getting an open shot. For Ayala when it comes to hitting threes, it’s all about not rushing the look.

On this play, Ayala had plenty of time to get his feet squared away and he was able to connect with ease. On many of Ayala’s misses this season, he was rushed and did not get properly set.

Ayala’s mid-range is a nice feature to his game

Like his three-pointer that we looked at earlier from the Michigan game, Ayala was fond of the step-back during this game. On this attempt though, it was in the mid-range instead of behind the three-point line.

Ayala and Aaron Wiggins executed a perfect dribble handoff, which led to Ayala being matched up with Isaiah Livers. Livers sat back on the Terp, anticipating the drive, and Ayala made him pay with the step-back as he hit the open mid-range shot.

This play against Rhode Island early in the season not only helped stop an early run for the Rams, but also once again showed off Ayala’s creativity in finishing shots.

He drove the ball strong to the rim here but stopped in the mid-block area. He used a pump-fake and then jumped into his defender to create contact before finishing the tough jumper.