College Park — It had been exactly a month since Maryland’s defense suffocated an opponent, holding Notre Dame to just 20 points in the first half of what became a 21-point win over the Fighting Irish at Xfinity Center in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
It must be something about teams from the state of Indiana that fires up the Terps at the defensive end.
Struggling with its offense early in the first half and giving up a few too many scoring chances early in the second half of Saturday’s home game against the state of Indiana’s flagship school, No. 15 Maryland turned up its defense and turned away the Hoosiers, 75-59.
It was by far the most impressive performance by Mark Turgeon’s team since beating Marquette, also by 21 points, in winning the Orlando Invitational. Maryland won easily despite shooting 29% in the first half (9 of 31) and 25% from 3-point range (6 of 24) for the game.
“It’s the best we’ve played in awhile,” Turgeon said.
While it wasn’t always pretty for the Terps at the offensive end, the defense was reminiscent of what Maryland (12-2, 2-1) showed against Marquette and Notre Dame in back-to-back 21-point wins in a three-day span early last month that helped Turgeon’s team rise to No. 3 in the country.
It was a more consistent defensive effort than the Terps demonstrated in losses on the road at Penn State and to Seton Hall in Newark, as well as in a more recent win over Bryant.
“I think we’ve been a pretty good defensive team all year,” Turgeon said. “We’ve been a pretty good rebounding team all year — today we got outrebounded [42-36]. And we really locked into the scouting report. We really wanted to play great post defense without fouling. And once we stopped going for every shot fake, which we talked about, we were better.”
Said sophomore wing Aaron Wiggins, “I think it’s just realizing how good our defense is for us. When our offense isn’t going in the first half, even today we got a couple of stops in a row, started to get a little bit of moment, saw the lead stretch out a little bit. I think once we realize our defense is our biggest factor in terms of us getting going, we’re just a better team.”
Sophomore forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) led the Terps with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Wiggins finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. Senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., who became the 15th player in school history to score more than 1,600 points, scored 13 points to go along six rebounds and six assists and didn’t commit a turnover for a second straight game.
Senior guard Devonte Green led Indiana (11-3, 1-2) with 18 points.
Trailing the Hoosiers 16-11 and failing to score on nine of 10 possessions in one stretch, Maryland used a defense-inspired 11-0 run to take the lead for good. The Terps built their 28-20 halftime lead to 33-22 on a windmill dunk by Wiggins before Indiana made its only run of the second half, cutting its deficit to 36-33 before Maryland’s defense kicked in until garbage time.
Playing mostly with four perimeter players and Smith, the Terps outscored the Hoosiers 35-8 in a little over 10 minutes before Turgeon cleared his bench after a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Eric Ayaya pushed the lead to 71-41 with 3:44 remaining. Indiana’s 14 turnovers resulted in 25 points for Maryland, which made just seven.
Indiana forward Trace Jackson-Davis, a leading contender for Big Ten freshman of the year who leads the Hoosiers in scoring (15.6) and the conference in field goal percentage (64.3), was held to seven points on 3-of-8 shooting. Until a couple of late 3s helped make the final score a little more palatable, Indiana made just one of its first 16.
“You have to give them credit,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “They’ve got a great shotblocker at the basket in Jalen, he impacts a lot. They bring the big fella [7-foot-2 freshman Chol Marial] off the bench now, and he impacts some things around the basket. And they’re long. Their wings, [Darryl] Morsell and Wiggins, they’re long and athletic. They do a really good job of keeping their man in front of them for the most. It’s tough to score around the basket.”
The better the defense played, the more efficient the offense became.
“I think our best offense is transition,” said junior guard Darryl Morsell [Mount Saint Joseph], who helped trigger the first-half run by scoring nine of his 12 points in the opening half. “We got a lot of good guards who make great decisions in transition. We got athletes who can run and finish in transition. We’re going to try to continue to help our offense by allowing our defense to create offense for us.”
For the first time in the last three years, Turgeon talked about his team’s collective experience.
“We’re only playing two young guys now — Chol and Donta [Scott],” Turgeon said of Marial, playing in only his second game and the 6-8 freshman forward making his third straight start. “And Donta was terrific and Chol’s going to be terrific for us when his timing comes back. We had a lot of veterans out there and they locked into the scouting and they know the importance of these games and what lies ahead.”
With No. 5 Ohio State (11-3, 1-2) coming in Tuesday night — the Buckeyes should fall out of the top 10 with their loss Friday at home to Wisconsin, their third in four games — the performance by the Terps should help raise the team’s confidence. Maryland is coming off what had been a rough month both on and off the floor, culminating with last week’s announcement of twin freshmen forwards Makhi and Makhel Mitchell leaving the team.
“The bottom line is, it’s been really tough. We were ranked really high," said Turgeon, whose Terps were as high as No. 3 a month ago. “I’m not sure we were ready for it, I’m not sure we deserved it. I don’t think we were having any fun. I think today the guys had fun. You saw them smiling. You saw guys playing more relaxed as the game went on.
Said Morsell: “We’re definitely not satisfied. We didn’t finish the game how we should have. We still got some things to improve on. But it’s good. It’s been a lot of noise in the program, so just to get this win and have something positive moving forward is a good step in the right direction.”
No. 15 Maryland 75, Indiana 59
INDIANA — Ju.Smith 3-7 1-2 7, Jackson-Davis 3-8 1-1 7, Durham 1-5 3-4 5, Phinisee 1-3 0-0 2, Brunk 4-7 1-4 9, Green 6-13 3-3 18, Davis 2-6 2-4 6, Anderson 0-1 0-0 0, Franklin 1-6 0-0 2, Thompson 1-3 0-0 3, Hunter 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-61 11-18 59.
MARYLAND — Cowan 4-13 4-5 13, Wiggins 5-11 4-4 15, Morsell 4-8 3-3 12, Ja.Smith 5-9 5-7 17, Ayala 2-6 3-4 7, Scott 3-7 2-2 9, Lindo 0-2 0-0 0, S.Smith 0-3 0-0 0, Marial 1-2 0-0 2, Tomaic 0-0 0-0 0, Hart 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-62 21-25 75.
Halftime—Maryland 28-20. 3-Point Goals—Indiana 4-19 (Green 3-7, Thompson 1-1, Anderson 0-1, Phinisee 0-1, Durham 0-2, Hunter 0-2, Ju.Smith 0-2, Franklin 0-3), Maryland 6-25 (Ja.Smith 2-3, Morsell 1-2, Scott 1-5, Wiggins 1-5, Cowan 1-6, Hart 0-1, S.Smith 0-1, Ayala 0-2). Rebounds—Indiana 38 (Brunk 9), Maryland 35 (Wiggins, Ja.Smith 8). Assists—Indiana 7 (Green, Anderson 2), Maryland 11 (Cowan 6). Total Fouls—Indiana 21, Maryland 16.
NO. 5 OHIO STATE@NO. 15 MARYLAND
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
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