Maryland’s 65-62 win over Valpo was their first NCAA Tournament win in five years. The Terps get West Virginia on Sunday for the right to go to the Sweet 16. Some quick thoughts on today.
1. MD is now 12 and 1 in games decided by six points or less this year but today’s win didn’t have to be that close. Valpo was average. They made a ton of contested shots…good for them. Maryland had chances to open up sizeable leads but self-destructed in those moments. Dez Wells had a bad turnover with under a minute left in the first half with the Terps up 7 and with a chance to go up 9 or 10. Instead of heading into halftime with a healthy lead, Alec Peters made a three on the other end and the Terps lead was 4 at the break. There were a few quick shots and an offensive charge by Dez against the zone in the 2nd half. Sometimes he gets too quick when patience is needed. He and Layman struggled against the zone for the majority of the game. Trimble, Nickens, and yes, Smotrycz were much better in their zone offense.
2. MD’s best chance to open up a sizeable lead was snuffed out by a bad call and a bad reaction. Up 39-31 early in the 2nd half, Damonte Dodd had a clean block but was called for a foul. He got teed up as well for taunting meaning that instead of the Terps having the ball up 8, Valpo hit 3 free throws to cut it to 5.
3. Wells, per usual, was there when they needed him. He didn’t have his best game by a long shot but with the game hanging in the balance, his offensive rebound/putback for a 3-point play was the decisive play of the game.
4. Where was Jake Layman? Another tough outing for him. Jake’s only shot attempt for the entire game was a late three-pointer that missed but was put back by Wells for the key 3-point play of the game. Layman has 10 total points on just 4 shot attempts in his last two games. He fouled out of this game and was a total non-factor offensively.
5. The Terps would be in the NIT without Melo Trimble. He was worth 6 wins this year minimum. It was him more than anyone else that led a key 16-3 run in the first half turning a 21-15 deficit into a 31-24 lead. He played 39 of the 40 minutes. I’m surprised he ever comes out. His stat line included 14 pts and 10 rebounds but was a bit misleading. He was better than that.
6. Evan Smotrycz has produced more good recently than bad. He’s painful to watch when he puts the ball on the floor but he’s getting more and more confident and is more help than hindrance these days. He had 8 pts, 5 rebounds, an assist, 2 steals, and he took two charges in the first half. He’s good in the middle of their zone offense. Despite going 0-4 from behind the arc, I don’t have any issue with him taking those. I actually think he should shoot more of them. He passed on an open look late in the game on the possession where Layman fouled out. As he did in the Indiana game last week, he hit pressure free throws late in the game. I know many Terp fans think he shouldn’t play as much as he does, I disagree right now. They’ve needed him recently.
7. Mark Turgeon. I’ve watched just about every game he’s coached since coming to Maryland. There are two things he does very well. First, after timeouts or ball stoppages, the Terps almost always execute a very good play to get a very good shot. Case in point today, after Valpo hit free throws to cut the lead to 56-52, he called for Dez to get the ball on a low-post duck-in move with the pass coming from the high post. Perfect execution got him the ball; he got doubled, then hit Dodd with a perfect pass for a dunk. Secondly, Turgeon is really good at managing the final few minutes of a close game. Although I thought they might foul on Valpo’s last possession up 3, the Varun Ram substitution was ballsy. Ram has been inserted for defensive purposes several times this year. He hadn’t played at all but Turge put him in there on the biggest possession of the game and his defense was superb….but…
8. ….Did Varun Ram foul? Maybe. I can say this for sure….whether he did or didn’t, he was lucky he wasn’t called for it. Usually when you slap “down” on the ball, refs will call the foul especially when the offensive player is in a shooting motion as Keith Carter appeared to be.