The Maryland men’s basketball team desperately needed to bounce back from its devastating 71-66 loss to George Mason Nov. 17. Despite the efforts of junior forward Donta Scott (18 points and 10 rebounds), freshman center Julian Reese (12, 3) and senior guard Eric Ayala (two 3-pointers in the final minute of the game), it just was not enough.
And the Terps got the anticipated bounce-back win. Maryland defeated Hofstra, 69-67, on Nov. 19 at Xfinity Center. The Terps (4-1) will now head to the Bahamas for the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship and face Richmond on Thanksgiving at 7 p.m.
“That’s a great win for us,” Terps head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We played better, played with confidence. We expected to win even when we were down four late.”
Here are five things to know ahead of the tournament.
1. The Terps are coming off of a close win.
The Pride held a tight 67-65 lead against the Terrapins with less than a minute left in regulation.
Graduate guard Fatts Russell sprinted down the court with the ball and immediately locked eyes with Ayala. The ball quickly found Ayala, who drove for a layup and tied the game with 23 seconds left. Screams filled Xfinity Center, and the players on Maryland’s bench jumped from their seats.
The game wouldn’t remain tied for long. On the ensuing Pride possession, Hofstra guard Omar Silverio fouled sophomore guard Ian Martinez. Again, screams filled the arena. Maryland had the chance to reclaim the lead with 19.6 seconds remaining in the game, and it did.
Martinez stood at the free-throw line, made both shots and gave his team the lead.
The Utah transfer explained that he practiced shooting from the foul line during the pregame shootaround.
“I was thinking, maybe today I’ll be in that situation, so I’ve got to think like I’m the only one in the gym right now,” Martinez said. “It worked for me.”
A steal by Russell sealed the game, and the Terps walked away victorious.
After being upset by George Mason, the Terps worked diligently to turn things around against Hofstra.
“What we worked on is our attitudes, our body language, being positive. This isn’t easy. [It’s] new for a lot of guys in our rotation,” Turgeon said. “… We let everybody talk and just [say] what’s on your mind, and I think it helped us. Our body language was better, our togetherness was better tonight, and we never quit, either.”
The Terps are fresh off of a close win and can use that energy to improve while in the Bahamas.
2. Maryland needs to improve its shooting from the outside.
The Terps have struggled immensely this season with shooting 3-pointers. Maryland is currently 29-for-114 on 3-point shots (25.4 percent), and Ayala leads the team with 12 threes.
After shooting 9-for-28 from behind the arc against George Mason and 6-for-27 against Vermont Nov. 13, the Terps desperately needed to bounce back.
But the Terps could still not manage to convert from the outside against Hofstra.
The Terps finished the first half with only four shots made from the outside, and the second half was not much different. The Terps missed three shots from behind the arc in the first four minutes of the half. Ayala notched his team’s first 3-pointer of the second half with about 15 minutes remaining.
But the game quickly changed, as Hofstra immediately made two consecutive 3-pointers to bring it within three points of Maryland (47-44).
Three-pointers worked in favor of the Pride, which tallied 12 of them on the night. Maryland only produced one 3-pointer in the second half and finished 5-for-22 from behind the arc.
However, the inability to convert from the outside does not concern Turgeon or his players.
“We have shooters, and I’m confident that we are going to start making shots,” Russell said. “We’ve just got to take the right ones and take them confidently.”
Maryland has trailed three times at the half and has struggled to build substantial leads against its opponents. Better 3-point shooting would make a difference, especially against a Richmond team that is 43-for-109 from behind the arc (39.4 percent) and averages 10.8 threes per game.
3. Julian Reese will likely see a lot of playing time.
The freshman center has left his mark through five games. Reese has already produced 46 points and seven blocks. He has also shot 17-for-31 from the field.
One memorable play against Hofstra came when Reese blocked graduate forward Jalen Ray’s shot with a little less than five minutes remaining in the first half, slapping the ball right out of his hands and directing the ball to Ayala. Terrapin fans went wild, and his teammates jumped from their seats.
Reese and junior center Qudus Wahab each played eight minutes in the first half, but Turgeon decided to utilize a smaller lineup to contain Hofstra’s offense in the second half. The coach turned to Reese to step up to the challenge, and he did. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound Reese played 11 minutes and tallied eight points, four rebounds and two blocks in the second half.
Turgeon applauded the Baltimore native’s performance.
“He was great,” Turgeon said of Reese. “He gave us [a] presence in the paint. … We were able to get downhill a little bit more because of the pressure he was putting on the post. He’s good. He just keeps getting better, and he can play a lot of different ways.”
Reese finished the game with 10 points in 19 minutes. Wahab did not play in the second half. The Hofstra game marked the second time Reese has played more minutes than Wahab. If Reese continues to play the way he is, the freshman may play more minutes in the Bahamas than the Georgetown transfer.
Still, Turgeon has emphasized several times this season that Wahab helps provide the Terrapins with low-post scoring. Wahab continued to prove that against Hofstra, posting six points and six rebounds. Wahab’s 6-foot-11, 240-pound frame presented problems early on for the Pride.
Turgeon explained that Wahab is still the team’s starting center and will play a significant role.
“Q, this might not feel right. But I’m going small,” Turgeon told Wahab at halftime. “Tonight, it [was] the Larry Brown in me. I had to figure out how to win the game. It was lineups we haven’t practiced. It didn’t always look great, but it gave us the best chance to win.”
4. The Terps had some depth pieces perform well against Hofstra.
Maryland proved against Hofstra that it can get contributions outside of the starting five of Eric Ayala, Fatts Russell, Hakim Hart, Donta Scott and Wahab. Graduate guard Xavier Green, sophomore Ian Martinez and Reese showed they can contribute offensively and defensively.
Green finished the night with four rebounds. Martinez had 13 points and five rebounds, going 5-for-9 from the field with a dunk.
“That’s the Ian that we see every day,” Russell said. “He’s just tremendous. He can shoot it. He can score it. He was a really great defender. He kind of showed the whole package today. I’m happy for him.”
Reese also had a solid performance and looks forward to making the most of the opportunities presented.
“It’s honestly a blessing [that I have] trust in my coach early,” Reese said. “… I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team, if I’ve got to play less minutes, more minutes, whatever.”
While the Terps have some depth in Green, Martinez and Reese, Turgeon rarely subs in anyone else. Sophomore forward Pavlo Dziuba and graduate forward Simon Wright only played one minute apiece against Hofstra. They each have three points this season.
It will be interesting to see how Turgeon uses them in the tournament.
5. The Terps hope the trip to the Bahamas will help them lock in.
Deep shots and turnovers have plagued the Terrapins throughout the young season. After averaging 11.3 turnovers per game throughout the first four games, Maryland finished its fifth game with 16 turnovers. For a Maryland team that continues to struggle offensively and defensively against nonconference opponents, perhaps a change of scenery will help it.
“Maybe us getting out of here, going down to warm weather and just bonding, maybe we’ll come back one of the hottest teams shooting the ball in America. We’ll see,” Turgeon said.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox