How it happened: Maryland rattled off a 23-4 run to close out the second half and beat the Denver Pioneers. Around the 8-minute mark, Terps coach Mark Turgeon made the strategic shift to play basically five guards in an effort to match the small, perimeter-oriented Pioneers.
Before the switch, Denver’s Princeton-style offense had given Maryland fits. Once the Terps went small, they clawed their way back into a game that at one point they trailed by nine.
Dez Wells led the Terps comeback, scoring 19 points and repeatedly attacking the glass for Maryland when the team desperately needed offense. Wells only had eight points in the first half, and the bulk of his scoring came during Maryland’s definitive drive that closed the game.
It took a while, but eventually Maryland’s superior athleticism shown through in this game. Denver forward Chris Udofia had a star effort for the Pioneers, scoring 24, though 19 came in the first half.
Size doesn’t matter: Turgeon deserves much credit for finally playing small-ball with his Terps, but it is hard to overstate the size advantage the Terps had in this game.
Maryland started 7’1” Alex Len at center and 6’8” forward Jake Layman, with even bigger bodies Shaq Cleare, Charles Mitchell and James Padgett coming off the bench. Denver’s tallest starter was Udofia at 6’6”.
And it didn’t matter. Prior to Maryland’s decisive 23-4 run to finish the game, Denver had much success in the paint. The Pioneers, coached by former Princeton player and coach Joe Scott, executed flawless backdoor cuts that flustered the Maryland bigs.
So long Alex?: If this was Alex Len’s final game at Comcast Center, and it could be depending who wins the Alabama-Stanford game, it will be one to forget.
Len could hardly muster any offense, and he got into foul trouble. Largely ineffective against players he held a significant height advantage over, Len finished with just five points and three rebounds. This must have been an extremely frustrating game for the Ukranian big man.
What happens next: Maryland faces the winner of Alabama-Stanford in the third round of the NIT. If Alabama wins, the Terps travel to Tuscaloosa. If Stanford prevails, the Terps will host the Cardinal next week in College Park.