The 12-game tune-up is over for the Maryland men's basketball team, filled with three high-profile games, a few early-season comebacks and more than a handful of one-sided wins.
The latest blowout came Sunday, when the No. 4 Terps built an early double-digit lead over Marshall, watched the Thundering Herd cut it to one and then used a late first-half run to restore a 10-point margin.
Maryland (11-1) never retreated, as its lead grew to as many as 27 in an eventual 87-67 victory at Xfinity Center before the sixth announced sellout crowd of the season.
The Terps open their second Big Ten Conference season Wednesday at home against Penn State.
“I think they're ready for it. Our guys like to be challenged,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “They'll be excited for it. The building will have a different buzz in it. We've just got to be a little bit tougher. When you get into league play, you've got to be physically and mentally tough, that's where we've got to improve the most.”
In preparation for an early league schedule that also will include only Maryland's second true road game of the season, Saturday at Northwestern — and a two-game trip to Wisconsin and Michigan beginning the next weekend — the Terps are trying to become a team that can score more inside this season than they did last season.
To that end, the Terps showed the kind of improved presence against Marshall (4-9) they will need to demonstrate against top-ranked Michigan State and others in the Big Ten.
Junior forward Robert Carter Jr. scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the first half, to go along with eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Freshman center Diamond Stone came off the bench to finish with 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
“Robert was good,” Turgeon said of Carter, who hit eight of 16 shots, including six of nine inside the 3-point arc. “Diamond was good. When Diamond got in there, he was terrific. He makes it look so easy how easy he scores around the basket.”
Asked whether Maryland made a conscious effort to take advantage of its size and strength inside, Turgeon said: “That was our plan. I thought we took too many jump shots early, but we settled down, we went inside. Our half-court motion offense was really good in the first half. At times, it was good in the second half.”
Getting the ball inside was “a big emphasis,” said Stone, who also finished with seven rebounds and two blocked shots. “Coach Turgeon always likes playing inside-out. … Me and Rob were rolling, so the guards started giving us the ball inside.”
Senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Melo Trimble scored 13 points and had seven assists and five rebounds. The Terps hit a season-high 13 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Jaylen Brantley added eight points and six rebounds off the bench.
After a drive by Sulaimon gave Maryland its biggest lead of the first half, 29-16, with 10:06 left, the Terps soon went flat on offense and a bit soft on defense. Trailing 31-19, the Thundering Herd went on a 17-6 run in a span of 41/2 minutes to cut the deficit to one.
The Terps then finished the half on a 9-0 run and never again were threatened.
“The first half, they had their offense running at a high level, we were scrambling and running around, and our [defensive] rotations were bad and we gave up 11 second-chance points” in the first half, Turgeon said. “We changed our ball-screen defense in the second half, and I thought we became a better defensive team in the second half.”
Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni blamed the loss more on his team's travels than on the Terps.
“We were in Vegas not four days ago, had to travel back and only get one day [to prepare] when it takes a while,” D'Antoni said. “It wears you out. It looks like we got tired in the second half. Things don't always go your way against a good team like Maryland.”
Turgeon said the Terps are “going in the right direction” but need to get less careless (19 turnovers) as the games get tighter.
“I don't want to be negative, to take five days off and have this kind of victory, but we've got a long ways to go in our half-court offense,” Turgeon said. “We have to have go-to plays, go-to things we have to do.”
The win over Marshall was the third straight, and fourth in five games, of 20 points or more.
“We haven't had a lot of close games, and obviously, we're going to have a lot of those coming up,” Turgeon said. “Sometimes when you're up 20, the guys don't concentrate enough. To them, they're up 20, so [it becomes a] why-are-we-working-on-this-Coach-type thing. That's something we need to improve, and we will.”
Note: Maryland took 27 3-pointers and made 13, the last by senior walk-on Trevor Anzmann (Westminster), who scored his first points since joining the team last season. All of Maryland's walk-ons have scored this season.