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Maryland basketball busted up a zone defense and started hitting shots vs. UMES

Three-point shooting turned Saturday's game into a comfortable win

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland only led the UMES Hawks by six points at halftime, but a quick run after halftime gave the Terps enough cushion to coast to an easy victory. In the first three minutes of the second half, Maryland rattled off a 15-4 run, which essentially ended any chance for an upset.

Fans have every reason to be concerned about the team not putting together a full 40 minutes. A small halftime lead against the weakest opponent on the schedule never looks great. However, a closer look shows that the victory was never truly in doubt.

Maryland's offensive execution against the UMES zone consistently led to open shots, and it was a matter of cold shooting that made the first half appear worse than it really was. In the first half, the Terps shot 4-for-12 (33 percent) from beyond the arc. In the second half, that figure jumped to 6-for-9 (67 percent).

In the clips below, you'll see that the zone offense wasn't appreciably different in its execution. Maryland had good looks in both halves. It was a simple matter of shots finally dropping that tipped the scales and busted the zone.

Here's an example of the crisp ball movement of the first half, leading to an empty possession nonetheless:

This is "Zone-Busting 101." Find the high post and go from there. If the defense collapses, kick out for an open three. If the perimeter is covered, there should be space for Robert Carter Jr. to work 1-on-1.

The other general approach is to screen the zone for dribble penetration. With a screen, Maryland can overload the zone, forcing a 3-on-2 situation. Carter neutralizes one guard defender with the pick, and then that leaves two Hawks guarding Melo Trimble's drive, Diamond Stone on the block and Rasheed Sulaimon in the corner.

Sulaimon will hit these two uncontested 3-pointers more often than not. Maryland will not shoot 33 percent from deep if it is consistently this wide open. There is absolutely no reason to fret over these results. The scheme and execution is way more important for long-term success.

Maryland did have better luck in the first half when it attacked further into the lane, rather than circling the perimeter. In the clip below, Sulaimon uses a screen to penetrate and then lob to Stone when the center steps up.

Maryland also looked for post-ups, with a big ducking in when the other forward received the ball at the top of the arc. These high-low passes did not develop into much, but Michal Cekovsky keeps the great position in the next play. After a nice skip pass from Stone, Jake Layman does not settle for the corner three. Cekovsky fakes out the defender and spins in a slick reverse layup.

Those open jumpers started dropping and sparked the critical run early in the second half. Check out the next clip where Maryland has very similar ball movement to the high post. Sulaimon does a nice job of cutting into open space, which is crucial since the ball pressure made a skip pass too difficult for Carter. Sulaimon draws the zone away from the perimeter, freeing Layman up for the triple.

Again, the high post feed starts the dominoes towards an open three-pointer. Carter has the room to square up and zip an accurate skip pass to Sulaimon. The extra pass leads to Trimble finishing off the play with a splash.

Maryland's zone offense was dangerous enough to eventually force UMES back into man-to-man later in the second half. The Terps executed the basic attacks with the high post and high ball screens, creating good looks in both periods.

Instead of focusing on the score at halftime or the winning margin, these games provide Maryland opportunities to perfect their schemes. On the offensive side, the Terps are proving to be disciplined and talented enough to bust the 2-3 or 3-2 zones they might see in the future.

Just for fun, let's end on one final zone-buster play called on Saturday. Requiring the element of surprise, Maryland can only pull this off maybe once a game. Watch Carter shove the defender in the back as a clearly illegal screen for the Layman lob.