Maryland’s sophomore trio of Jalen Smith, Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala have played in several high pressure games in their short Maryland tenure. So when Rhode Island jumped out to a 28-20 lead against the No. 7 Terrapins, the group did not panic.
“It makes a really big difference for our team, having so many guys with that experience. Being able to step up, be patient, still be calm even when we’re down 10 in the first half,” said Wiggins, who finished with 13 points. “We got their best shot out of the gate.”
Ayala proceeded to score five consecutive points to trim the lead. Donta Scott followed that up with a three pointer and when Darryl Morsell finished a baseline dunk, the Terps completed a 10-0 run to snag their first lead. The Rams tied the game at 32 but Wiggins nailed a crucial three pointer to give the Terps a 35-32 lead at the half. Despite 14 first half turnovers, Maryland suddenly had momentum. Smith, Wiggins, and Ayala combined for 23 of the Terps 35 first half points.
The second half started with a three-pointer by Rhode Island’s Tyrese Martin to tie the game, but Ayala got those three points back with a menacing drive to the rim for an and-one. After that bucket, Maryland would never trail again, on their way to a 73-55 victory.
Defensively, Maryland looked lost in their man-to man to start the contest. After some early defensive lapses, head coach Mark Turgeon threw some more zone looks at Rhode Island and the visitors suddenly looked lost. The Rams finished with 18 turnovers while only shooting 30 percent from the field.
“Our zone really hurt them. We rebounded out of it,” Turgeon said. “In the second half, Darryl and Donta did a great job of fronting the post. Making it hard on them.”
Another adjustment the Terps made was switching to a smaller lineup. When they were trailing 28-20, Turgeon elected to go with a four guard lineup with Darryl Morsell playing the four. That group sparked the run that helped take the lead, and they extended it when they started the second half. A key part of that was Wiggins, who finished with a career high 13 rebounds en route to his first career double-double.
“We were able to space the floor and run because of our defense. We’re a good running team,” Turgeon said. “Darryl was really guarding the five. Donta was guarding the five and that really changed the game once we did that.”
While it was the sophomores who helped Maryland get the lead, it was senior Anthony Cowan who closed. He seemingly scored anytime the Rams tightened the game in the second half. After a scoreless first half, he erupted for 14 in the second.
“Anthony gonna be Anthony. Y’all know what Anthony can do,” said Ayala. “I mean he took over in the second half.”
Maryland played much better in the second half, but it was still far from a perfect game. After turning the ball over only eight times against Holy Cross, the Terps turned it over 17 times on Friday. They were also killed on the offensive glass, allowing 20 offensive rebounds.
Maryland now has some time to rest as they do not play again until next Saturday against Oakland at noon. The days off should help Maryland improve on weak spots.
“That week will give us time to work on the little things. It will give us time to point out everything we need to work on,” said Wiggins. “Taking it one game at a time, being locked in and making sure that we are taking care of business.”
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