Maryland pulled out a double-digit 77 to 66 victory over the Illinois State Redbirds, despite carrying many of its recurring issues from College Park down south to Mexico in the first game of the Cancun Challenge.
A career-high 13-point scoring night for junior Damonte Dodd and a 15-point, 7-assist performance from Melo Trimble paved the way to victory for the Terrapins.
A 10-2 burst at the beginning of the game gave the appearance that Maryland had broken out of its streak of first-half scoring slumps. The Terps looked like they were well on their way to their first blow-out of the season. Rasheed Sulaimon and Robert Carter Jr. combined for 5 points apiece, and the Terps were in some sort of an offensive roll early.
Things changed quickly after two quick fouls in the first 2 minutes and 42 seconds of the game caused Diamond Stone to sit on the bench all but the final 38 seconds of the half. Illinois State promptly introduced a trap high on the perimeter that caused the Terrapins to turn the ball over 7 times in the first 12 minutes and 9 times total in the half.
Maryland's 3-point shooting woes also continued as the team shot 2 for 13 in the first 20 minutes, and the trap forced the Terrapins into taking some unwarranted attempts and lose focus on attacking the rim. Melo Trimble didn't attempt a single free throw and the team took just seven as a unit, and were fortunate to lead 31-30 at the break.
To counter the early ball-handling problems,Turgeon went small in the second half, going against his preseason wishes to play big as much as possible. He sent out a lineup of Jaylen Brantley, Trimble, Sulaimon, Jared Nickens and Damonte Dodd in the early stages of the second half, which contributed to a 7-0 run.
Dodd had a quartet of second half slams to create some temporary separation from Illinois State. He was the benefactor of the Redbirds' attention to the perimeter, jumping out on Trimble and Sulaimon.
Illinois State had answers all game led by 17 points from MiKyle McIntosh and 15 points from Paris Lee, but Maryland's talented guard play was too much. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Nickens and Sulaimon pulled the lead up to six with three minutes left and the Terps never looked back. Maryland capped off the game on a 17 to 8 run.
The Terrapins are set to face the Rhode Island Rams at 8:30 on Wednesday night in the championship game of the Cancun Classic.
Three things to know:
1. Diamond Stone had foul problems early. Just 2 minutes and 42 seconds into the game Stone committed two fouls, one of them coming from a late recovery to defend the rim. Coach Mark Turgeon kept the five-star freshman out of the game until the final 38 seconds of the half, and the Terps to go with their defensive bigs Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky. That duo was unable to take advantage offensively over the smaller Illinois State team, combining for just 1 point.
2. Illinois State's double-team had the Terps flustered. Maryland turned the ball over 7 times in the first 12 minutes much in part to the Redbirds' double-teams on the perimeter and on the first pass inside. The Terps relied heavily on Melo Trimble, who played 19 first-half minutes and committed 4 turnovers.
3. Jaylen Brantley played a lot this game. While he didn't do anything spectacular, he did his intended job. He kept the ball secure for a few minutes when Trimble took a seat on the bench, and played as primary ball-handler when he shared the court with him.