I’m not gonna lie….this one felt good. Really good.
After three long weeks of mixed results and occasional disappointment, the Maryland Terrapins completely laid waste to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 86-60 at Comcast Center. The near capacity crowd was treated to some offensive firepower that had gone missing in action for almost a month. Six Terps finished the game in double figures and the team shot an almost unheard of 67% from the field (35-52) that included 11-16 from behind the three point line.
To add insult to Wake’s injury the Terps hammered the Deacs on the backboards by a 42-19 for good measure.
Maryland had already jumped out to a 20-11 lead in the first ten minutes when freshman wing Jake Layman buried two three pointers in a 50 second span and the rout was on. Wake made a couple of nominal threats to cut into the lead over the next few minutes but was never able to make a serious sustained run. A long three by Logan Aaronhalt gave the home team a 42-25 going into the locker room at half.
For whatever reason (youth, lack of floor leadership and inconsistent outside shooting come to mind) this Maryland team has never been able to successfully put away opponents when given that opportunity. This afternoon they were able to do just that and removed the last shred of doubt around this game by scoring a quick seven points in the first 90 seconds of the second half and the lead ballooned to 49-25.
Game. Set. Match.
There was an awful lot to celebrate with this win. To begin with, the starting lineup of Nick Faust, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, James Padgett and Alex Len seemed to find an offensive rhythm early and never let up. At one point Len and Padgett were a combined 9-9 as they bludgeoned Wake around the rim.
Perhaps even better was the fact that there was no let-up whatsoever when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon went to his bench for subs. Reserve post players Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare continued the domination initiated by Len and Padgett and guards Aaronhalt and Seth Allen scored easily and often. Junior guard Pe’Shon Howard had missed the Florida State game with the flu but played well in his minutes. Given his well- documented shooting struggles, Howard appears to be re-making himself as a defensive stopper on the perimeter and helped to harass Wake’s T.J. Harris into shooting 2-7 in this game.
Turnovers still plague the team and were a problem again today. The Terps finished with 19 for the afternoon but they didn’t have nearly the impact they’ve had in weeks past because of their red-hot shooting. Those turnovers were particularly tough on this team in those games where they were shooting around 35%. That means your offensive efficiency is probably actually around 20% and that won’t win games.
Given the fact that Miami and Duke appear to want to distance themselves at the top of the league, the next couple of weeks loom large for this team if it hopes to have NCAA aspirations. Maryland plays at Virginia Tech on Thursday night before returning to Comcast for games against Virginia and Duke on consecutive weekends. The games after that involve teams in the “middle earth” of the ACC and you probably need to win most of those to do some separation of your own from the pack.
Today’s win improves them to 16-6 overall and 4-5 in league play. Beginning with today’s game, the schedule Gods look like they’re smiling a little bit more on the Terps than they did last month when their away games included games at league leaders Miami and Duke and perennially tough North Carolina and Florida State. In February they get Duke and UNC in Comcast and their road games – while difficult- will not be quite as tough as January’s.
The last two games felt like a couple of steps forward for a team in search of some kind of rhythm. Time will tell if that’s the case or if this team will go back to the hills and valleys that defined their January.