Maryland men’s basketball is officially 1-0 in the new decade, as the No. 15 Terps started 2020 with a resounding 75-59 victory against Indiana Jan. 4.
After a shaky three weeks that included two road losses and two shaky home performances, Maryland played at perhaps its highest level of the season in the second half against the Hoosiers. The Terps started slowly (again) and had to slowly inch their way to a 28-20 halftime lead, but turned on the jets and led by as many as 30 in the second half.
Jalen Smith led a balanced scoring effort with 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 25 minutes. Anthony Cowan Jr. and Aaron Wiggins tallied 13 points each, while Darryl Morsell notched 12. Donta Scott and Eric Ayala chipped in nine and seven points, respectively.
With the win, Maryland moves to 12-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten. With a top-15 matchup coming Jan. 7 against Ohio State, the Terps needed a performance that could spark confidence going forward. They got exactly that.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “This is the best we’ve played in a while.”
1. Maryland put the hammer down in the second half.
The Terps, as everyone reading this probably knows, started this season No. 7 in the AP Poll and rose as high as No. 4. They’ve only played at that kind of level in flashes, though. They’ve been able to put games away with one big run, but haven’t had the consistency expected of a top-10 team.
With 14 minutes remaining, Maryland held a 36-33 lead and Indiana had scored six unanswered points. But the next 10 minutes were far and away the Terps’ best of the season. They went on a 35-8 run, dominating the Hoosiers on both ends of the floor.
Indiana found a rhythm in garbage time, trimming the final margin to 16. But the message had already been sent.
2. The defense controlled the game.
Maryland got off to its customary slow start on offense, but in almost as regular of an occurrence, the Terps dragged another opponent into the muck with them.
Indiana made four of its first nine shots, then just three of the ensuing 18. The Hoosiers mustered just 20 first-half points on 8-of-30 shooting. And they started the second half 8-of-25 before hitting their last six against Terps reserves. From three-point range, they started 1-of-15 (finished 4-of-18).
Perhaps more notably, though, Maryland also forced 14 Indiana turnovers and converted them into 25 points.
“We were much better with transition into taking a good shot and not turning the ball over,” Turgeon said. “We had 41 percent loss of ball at Seton Hall after a stop — ridiculous — so we’ve worked on that.”
3. The Terps didn’t shoot well, but they made some big ones.
Two months into the season, it still doesn’t make much sense that Maryland would be a poor shooting team. But the Terps entered this game shooting just 41.9 percent from the field and 31.2 percent from deep as a team. They’ve been especially shaky early in games, a trend that continued against the Hoosiers, as Maryland started 3-of-15 from the floor. The Terps finished the first half 9-of-31, and even a strong second half only brought them to 24-of-62 (38.7 percent) for the game.
Smith was the only Terp to shoot above 50 percent, going 6-of-10. Most of that production came inside, but his back-to-back threes early in the contest were as pivotal as any baskets all afternoon. They woke up the crowd, and the second one sparked an 11-0 run that pushed the Terps ahead.
4. Maryland uncharacteristically lost the rebounding battle.
The Terps have dominated opponents on the glass all year — they ranked third nationally with 43.1 rebounds per game in their first 13 contests and most recently won the category 48-16 against an undersized Bryant team. But Indiana joined Illinois as the second team to out-rebound Maryland all season, leading 42-36 on the glass thanks to 15 offensive rebounds (leading to 13 second-chance points).
It’s not a huge margin, and it clearly didn’t swing the outcome. But this will be worth monitoring as Big Ten play continues. Maryland won’t have a size advantage every night, so it’ll need consistent effort to contend on the boards.
5. The second string is slowly coming along.
Maryland’s top five players entered the new year accounting for 78.6 percent of the team’s scoring this season. The depth that looked like the Terps’ greatest asset earlier in the season became suspect, and losing twin centers Makhi and Makhel Mitchell only added to the growing concerns. But the second unit showed some promise in this one.
Freshman forward Donta Scott, who functions as a sixth man despite having started the last three games, shook off a scoreless first half to pile up nine points after intermission. He showed his versatility in the process, sinking a three, mid-range jumper, fast-break dunk and a pair of free throws.
“He brings versatility at the four. He can stretch the floor. He thinks like a guard at that size,” Morsell said of his teammate. “He just does a lot of great stuff, and he helps us win.”
Serrel Smith Jr. played 12 minutes, his most since Nov. 16 against Oakland. Ricky Lindo and Joshua Tomaic logged eight and six minutes in the post, respectively. But the headliner of this group is Chol Marial, the 7-foot-2 Sudanese freshman center. Marial finished with two points, three rebounds and four fouls in eight minutes. He’s still rounding back into form, but Turgeon remains excited to have him around.
“He didn’t play for two and a half years,” Turgeon said. “He’s so damn happy — he’s just smiling, he’s having so much fun. … I’m just so happy for him.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox