Feature photo courtesy of Lauren Anikis/Stories Beneath the Shell.
For the umpteenth time, Maryland was struggling with a mid-major opponent.
Midway through the opening half, the Terps looked shell shocked. A crowd in a finals week haze was as low energy as its Terps. Maryland needed a spark.
Down 17-16 with 10:17 to go in the half, Dion Wiley found himself with space at the top of the key. With the gym quiet, the swish was deafening.
In the blink of an eye, the Terps woke up.
Wiley’s triple started a 14-3 run over the next 3:53, eventually leading to a 92-66 rout of Jacksonville State Monday night.
Starting after Wiley’s basket, Mark Turgeon employed a full-court press that gave the Gamecocks fits. The defensive intensity inspired the offensive explosion. Maryland forced 16 turnovers, scoring 22 points off them.
“Because I hadn’t been making many shots over the last couple games, it must have got my team going, and it got the bench going,” Wiley said. “They believe in me.”
It wasn’t a perfect night following the run, though. In the second half, Maryland went about six and a half minutes without a field goal, missing seven shots over that span. Jacksonville State was allowed within 10, coaxing a Turgeon timeout.
The rim-rocking slam Michal Cekovsky has become known for ended the drought and began a new run. Over the next two and half minutes, the Terps outscored the Gamecocks 12-4, sealing Jacksonville State’s fate.
“We finished the game the right way,” Turgeon said.
The offensive explosion was spread around. For the first time since Feb. 2, 2013, against Wake Forest, six Terps scored in double-figures.
Cekovsky scored 15 points, establishing dominance in the paint early. This is his fifth double-digit point game this year and sixth of the junior’s career.
“He’s been the Ceko we thought we were going to have,” Turgeon said.
Wiley showed some of the promise that was touted in the preseason. He struggled previously, averaging 3.8 points per game on 13.7 minutes per contest. He tied his season-high Saturday with 13 points. Two of those points came late in the game on an acrobatic scoop layup, showing off his athleticism.
After a quiet outing Saturday afternoon, Melo Trimble reasserted himself as the team’s deadliest scorer. He had a perfect first half from the field, going 3-of-3 from beyond the arc and 5-of-5 from the field.
Trimble finished with a game-high 23 points, but perhaps his most encouraging stat was his perfect 7-of-7 free-throw shooting.
Free throws helped Maryland through its multiple droughts. The team got to the line 35 times, earning 27 points at the charity stripe. During the long drought in the second half, Maryland scored eight points purely from the free-throw line.
Trimble’s four total threes made up only a fraction of Maryland’s 3-pointers. The Terps shot 64.7 percent from deep (11-of-17), by far their best mark of the year.
“I didn’t think we got as many open shots tonight as we had been getting, but our shot selection was better,” Turgeon said. “Our guys didn’t settle for the first open three. They worked.”
Ivan Bender said he thinks this was the most complete game the team has put together this season.
“We talked two days in a row before this game that we have to grow as a team,” Bender said. “Share the basketball, play together, play for each other. I think we did that most of the game.”
Maryland will be back in action Dec. 20 when it goes to Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore for a date with Charlotte. The next home game is Dec. 27 against Illinois, the Big Ten opener.