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No. 3 Maryland avoids huge upset with ugly win over Rider, 65-58

COLLEGE PARK — As expected, the atmosphere at Xfinity Center on Friday night for the No. 3 Maryland men's basketball team's game against Rider seemed different from Tuesday's battle with Georgetown.

The ESPN signage and noted Terps fan Scott Van Pelt were nowhere to be found. Despite an announced sellout, there were a few more empty seats, as well.

What had not changed was how tentative coach Mark Turgeon's team looked on offense and how shaky it was on defense. What guard Rasheed Sulaimon had called a potential "trap" game almost came true as the Broncs, nearly 20-point underdogs, led for more than 34 minutes.

In a reversal from Tuesday night, when established stars led Maryland to a come-from-behind victory, the Terps needed a teenager to wake them up en route to a 65-58 victory.

Freshman center Diamond Stone, who took his first share of criticism for the way he was manhandled inside by the Hoyas, led Maryland (3-0) back from a 14-point deficit early in the second half.

Spurred by Stone, who finished with 10 of his 12 points in the second half to go along with five rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal, the Terps finished the game on a 36-15 run and sealed the victory with four straight free throws by senior forward Jake Layman (11 points, 11 rebounds) in the last 18 seconds.

"We learned a lot tonight and on Tuesday," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "We need to play better. It's on us to win these games. Rider was terrific tonight, but we just need to get better, and it's my job to get them to play better."

Maryland plays its next game away from home for the first time this season — far away. The Terps will play Illinois State in Mexico as part of the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday night. Friday's game against Rider was also part of the tournament, but it was certainly not a day (or night) at the beach.

Turgeon blamed himself more than he did his team's 5-for-22 3-point shooting — against a team playing mostly zone — and more than he did the team's rebounding woes at center. Aside from Stone, sophomore starter Michal Cekovsky and junior Damonte Dodd combined for just one rebound in 23 minutes.

Asked what effect the emotion of Tuesday's down-to-the-wire win over Georgetown had against Rider (0-3), Turgeon said: "We tried not to let it get to us. We have to have energy and everything for every game. Georgetown went out and beat a good Wisconsin team today, so it didn't affect them. I just need to do a better job getting them ready to play. I had plenty of time to do it. I just didn't have us ready to go tonight."


Entering Friday's game, Turgeon said he was looking for a number of improvements, specifically from Stone. But the first half seemed to be a repeat of the Georgetown game for Stone and the Terps.

The blue-chip recruit, who was benched in favor of Cekovsky to start the game, still had trouble stopping the Broncs from getting near the basket. So did Cekovsky, who was pulled quickly after Rider's guards penetrated without much resistance from the much bigger Terps.

Maryland fell behind by as many as nine, cut its halftime deficit to 31-29, then watched as Rider started the second half on a 12-0 run.

But Stone made his presence felt during a big run in the second half by using his size for layups and put-backs, including a dunk off a miss by senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon. He also seemed to play better defense, in part because Maryland's 1-3-1 trapping zone kept the Broncs from getting inside as they had earlier.

Told that Turgeon said Stone might have been motivated by the benching, the freshman smiled and said: "I wouldn't say that. I would say that I was just waiting for him to call my number, and once he did, I went out and performed."

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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