The No. 6 Maryland Terrapins continued their home dominance when they defeated Fairfield 74-55 on Tuesday night. Despite another somewhat slow start, the Terps used a late first half push to gain a lead from which they would never look back. Here are my biggest takeaways from an up-and-down game for the Terps.
Turgeon is still experimenting with lineups
For the third time in four games, head coach Mark Turgeon elected to go with a new starting lineup. Usual suspects Anthony Cowan, Aaron Wiggins, Darryl Morsell and Jalen Smith remained, while freshman Donta Scott took the spot of Makhi Mitchell.
But throughout the contest Turgeon was trying to mix and match. 11 players saw the floor for the Terps in the first half and all 11 played over five minutes. A five man unit featuring three freshmen (Mitchell, Scott and Hakim Hart) went scoreless over a three minute stretch.
“Tonight was more about I just wanted to play a lot of guys and always felt like we were going to win the game, just didn’t know by how much,” Turgeon said. “Our young guys didn’t play as well as they’ve been playing.”
The group that broke the game open was the four guard lineup featuring Eric Ayala, with Cowan, Wiggins, Morsell and Stix. Playing with four guards and five players that can shoot, created more spacing and the offense suddenly found their rhythm. They were +10 in under five minutes. This group, which is the most experienced five players, has yet to start a game and Turgeon hinted that trend could continue.
“I know who my best five players are, but that may not be the best five to start. But, they’re going to play the most minutes,” Turgeon said. “After that, I gotta figure it out down the road. Guys have to be more consistent for me, but we’ll start playing for keeps.”
Ricky Lindo Jr. had his breakout game
Coming into this season, one of the players expected to make a leap was Ricky Lindo Jr. The Washington D.C. native showed flashes in his freshman campaign and added 20 pounds since the start of last year. But Lindo’s early season play had come nowhere close to expectations. Lindo attributes some of that to poor body language on his end.
“Body language is really key and he (Turgeon) is always emphasizing body language,” Lindo said. “And when I realized my role and what I am really good at, it just really looked good tonight.”
Entering Tuesday night’s game, Lindo had scored only 11 points in the season. He was the first player off of Turgeon’s bench and made an immediate impact. The sophomore had six points and four rebounds alone in the first half. Three of those rebounds came on the offensive glass, which is the role he is expected to play for this team.
“Ricky is a tremendous player. In practice he’s one of our best players, he’s always working hard, he’s one of the last people in the gym,” said Jalen Smith. “When his number was called today, he showed up and I was happy for him.”
Lindo finished with a career-high 13 points in a season-high 21 minutes. It was just the kind of performance he needed to get his season back on track. With Turgeon still looking for a consistent starting five, don’t be surprised to see Lindo get another crack at it.
The zone defenses show both positives and negatives
The Terps have been unconventional on the defensive end thus far, throwing out multiple different defenses this season. Zone defense has helped the Terps speed games up and create turnovers. Prior to Tuesday night, the Terps were second in the Big Ten in forced turnovers per game at 17. That trend continued when Fairfield coughed the ball up 16 times on Tuesday
“We got ourselves going with the press in the first half. Got ourselves tired with the press in the second half, so we just locked into man,” Turgeon said. “They made some tough shots to shoot 35 percent, so our defense was great.”
But zone and press defense have their flaws. When the offense finds the gaps, it leaves shooters open and that is exactly what happened Tuesday. The Stags, who entered the contest shooting 27 percent from deep, came out blazing hot hitting seven of their 11 three-point attempts in the first half. They were led by Landon Taliaferro who was 5-9 from three.
“We watched film on him, I could tell he was a shooter. It was different seeing it in person. A lot of guys fed off of him,” said Ayala. “He was making a lot of shots and it was impressive. I’m playing against him and I’m like ‘wow’”.
With so much versatility and depth, look for the Terps to continue to use multiple looks on the defensive end. But if tonight showed anything, it is that playing zone against competent outside shooting teams might give Maryland some problems.
Maryland will look to cap off their five game home stretch on Friday when George Mason makes the short trip from Fairfax to College Park. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m and the game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.
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