Maryland used a strong second half effort to beat Minnesota 82-67 on Tuesday night. The win is Maryland’s fourth straight and second straight on the road. Here are my takeaways on what might be the Terrapins best win of the season.
Jalen Smith proving his worth
Coming into the season, expectations were high for the five-star freshman out of Baltimore. After back to back single digit games earlier in the season, “Stix” has arguably been the Terps best player in conference play. He has now had five straight games over 14 points and had a career high 21 in the win Monday.
Minnesota is a team with good interior size, but Smith was relentless in the paint. He got to the free throw line multiple times, and converted on seven of his eight attempts. The Terps have gotten consistent production out of Anthony Cowan and Bruno Fernando all season and Smiths recent play has given Maryland a dangerous big three. If Smith keeps up this level of intensity, he may be in the NBA sooner rather than later.
Ricky Lindo Jr. continues to improve
Lindo was the latest addition to the 2018 recruiting class, but he has already become one of the most valuable. His minutes were minimal in the early part of the season, but that has drastically changed recently. He averaged 1.1 points per game over the first eight games, but in the last eight games he has upped his scoring to 3.5 points per game while playing some crucial minutes when either Smith or Fernando is in foul trouble.
The Minnesota game was a perfect example of just that. Fernando picked up his third foul early in the second half, so Lindo was inserted. Lindo finished with six points, which included a massive three pointer that cut the deficit to two points. He also snagged five rebounds. Depth was an issue for the Terps early on, but Lindo’s improvement has allowed for Smith and Fernando to rest. Lindo does something positive almost every game now and I can’t wait to see his continued growth.
Turgeon making valuable adjustments
Going into the half Maryland had a six point deficit and quite frankly, I did not think they were going to win. However, coach Mark Turgeon had the Terrapins bust out a 3-2 matchup zone early in the second half and it completely turned the game around. As soon as the zone was implemented, the Terps went on a 22-7 run as Minnesota looked lost on offense.
Maryland has played mostly man-to-man all year, but tonight was the perfect time to implement the zone. Coming into tonight, Minnesota was dead last in the big ten in three point makes per game (5.4) and second to last in three point percentage (31.3). Maryland used their perimeter speed and interior length to pressure Minnesota into tough shots and as a result the Gophers were 6-16 from three and scored 27 second half points.
People like to point out Turgeon’s flaws when the Terps lose, but I figure it is only fair if we give him credit when he does a good job like he did Tuesday night. The decision to go zone turned the game around and his rotations have been gelling.
Minnesota; more questions than answers
The Golden Gophers were 12-2 coming into tonight’s contest after an impressive road win at Wisconsin. Late season collapses have not been uncommon under coach Richard Pitino’s tenure. Last season, Minnesota started off 13-3 before losing 14 of their last 16 games and not making the NCAA tournament. They also started 13-3 in Pitino’s first season at Minnesota and ended up missing the tourney that year as well.
Pitino is now in year six and has only one tournament appearance under his belt. With a strong start to the season, the expectation in Minneapolis is an NCAA tournament bid. This year’s team has good size inside, but severely lacks perimeter shooting. Amir Coffey is their go to guy in crunch time, but his lack of speed makes it hard to create shots for others. The Big Ten is very deep this year meaning it is going to be crucial to win these close games if he wants to keep his job.
Tough stretch ahead for Maryland
As I previously mentioned, the Terps are playing some of their best basketball of the season right now. Winning on the road in the Big Ten is not easy and this young squad did just that in consecutive games. Tonight’s win puts them at 4-1 in conference play and third place in the conference.
The schedule does not get any easier. Maryland’s next four games are against ranked opponents Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan State and unranked Wisconsin, who was ranked last week. The way Maryland has played recently, they can win all of these games. But they could also lose all of them. Buckle up Terp fans.
- Anthony Cowan only had four points at half, but he scored 23 in the second half
- Despite somewhat of an off night, Bruno Fernando finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.
- Maryland was 0-3 in the first half from three but converted on six of their seven attempts in the second half.
- Maryland has now won the rebounding battle in all sixteen of their games this season.
- Maryland was an effective 24-27 from the free throw line.
- Minnesota was an abysmal 9-23 from the free throw line. They were the home team.
- There were a combined 37 fouls tonight. I’m all for Big Ten basketball, but 37 fouls is brutal to watch.