As Maryland begins the second half of its first Big Ten season Wednesday against Penn State, we are going to take a look at the individual performances of the players and the coaching of Mark Turgeon to see which way they are trending and what each has to do to make sure the season ends with the school's first NCAA tournament bid in five years.

While the 80-56 loss at Ohio State on Thursday that came on the heels of a lucky last-second win at home against Northwestern and a 19-point blowout loss at Indiana might indicate a downward spiral for the Terps, we will judge the first half of the Big Ten season as a whole and see what to expect in the last nine games.



Dez Wells: The play of the 6-foot-5 senior shooting guard has been inconsistent through the first nine games of the Big Ten schedule, largely because of the month he missed leading up to league play because of a fractured wrist. Wells has recently had some good spurts -- late against Rutgers and Northwestern, early against Ohio State -- yet needs to be steadier and more in control down the stretch for the Terps to finish strong.

Melo Trimble: As sensational as the 6-3 freshman point guard has been this season, he still has shown his inexperience at times lately and maybe a bit of first-year fatigue. Trimble has immediately followed two terrific home performances (24 points against Michigan State and 27 against Northwestern) with mediocre ones on the road (10 points against Indiana and a season-low three against Ohio State). He might have hit the proverbial freshman wall against the Buckeyes (0 of 8 shooting) and the six-day break could help him get his legs back.

Jake Layman: Starting with the second half of Maryland's road win at Purdue, the 6-9 junior forward strung together three impressive games that culminated with a 23-point, 12-rebound performance against the Spartans and earned him Big Ten Player of the Week honors for the second time this season. Based on the last two games, Layman has to become more a part of the offensive game plan given the way teams are loading up on Wells and, in particular, Trimble. Layman is more effective going to the basket than setting for jumpers, which he did at Ohio State.

Damonte Dodd: Since the 6-11 sophomore from Centreville (Queen Anne's) has started a majority of the games at center, he will be listed among the top five. Yet since he scored nine points, tying a career high, with a career-high 12 rebounds and three blocks in a home win over Minnesota on Jan. 3, Dodd has regressed significantly, scoring just 10 points, getting 17 rebounds and blocking six shots in the past seven games. He needs to figure it out quickly or Turgeon likely will consider other options.

Jared Nickens: Certainly the team's biggest surprise this season and one of the biggest in the country, the 6-7 freshman wing has shown no fear about firing up 3-point shots. He leads the Terps in 3-pointers made (40), two more than Trimble, and is tied with Trimble for attempts (100). The other areas of his game also are improving, but defense and rebounding is what is going to keep him on the court for longer stretches.


Evan Smotrycz: Maryland fanshave voiced their frustration with the 6-9 senior forward since he returned from a broken foot earlier in the season, more than with any Terps player in recent years. He is starting to shoot better overall (10 of 17 in the last six games) but still has yet to regain consistency on 3-point shooting (4 of 19 in the last 10 games). Aside from his experience, he is a more consistent rebounder and defender than either Dodd or freshman Michal Cekovsky.

Richaud Pack: After making a significant contribution earlier in the season, particularly when Wells went out with his injury, the 6-3 senior transfer has struggled as his role changed and his playing time was reduced. Replaced in the starting lineup by Nickens at Purdue, Pack had 11 points off the bench in the win. He then struggled in a reserve role and Turgeon moved him back into the starting lineup at Ohio State, where he did a good job defensively early against D'Angelo Russell. It will be interesting to see what happens Wednesday.

Dion Wiley: Among the three freshmen perimeter players, the 6-4 shooting guard has been the most erratic. In the Big Ten, it either has been feast (nine points in 21 minutes or fewer against Indiana, Purdue and Illinois, six points in eight minutes against Minnesota and six points in 14 minutes against Ohio State) or forget-about-it (scoreless against Northwestern and the two Michigan State games, one point against Rutgers). He probably needs to have a more regular slot to be effective going forward since he might end up as a starter next season.

Jon Graham: Graham's playing time is largely dependent on the opponent and how Maryland's other frontcourt players are doing. The defense, rebounding and energy of the 6-8 senior from Baltimore (Calvert Hall) helped win games at Michigan State and Purdue, and he will certainly be in the mix more if Dodd and Cekovsky continue to have problems finishing at the offensive end and getting into foul trouble. More comfortable coming off the bench than starting.

Michal Cekovsky: Maybe too much was expected from the 7-footer from Slovakia coming in, after one NBA general manager proclaimed him a "two-and-done" player. The player everyone calls "Checko" showed flashes of promise in the preseason, but the speed, physicality and big-time atmosphere of the Big Ten has prevented him from taking his talent from the practice court to the games. A spring and summer in the weight room might make the difference.

Mark Turgeon: While some of his critics now have resurfaced after the two recent road blowouts, Turgeon remains the leader in the clubhouse at the halfway point for Big Ten coach of the year and in the hunt for national coach of the year. This bye weekend and break until Wednesday will get Turgeon back in the gym with his team, and could be the difference between the Terps securing one of the top seeds in the Big Ten tournament (and a fairly high seed in the NCAA tournament) or slipping down to the middle of the pack. Considering a more favorable schedule -- five games at home, only three of the nine right now with winning league records -- Turgeon should be able to put Maryland back on track heading into March. If he can't, some of the questions from last season could resurface.


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