From Maryland men’s basketball junior forward Qudus Wahab’s confidence growing to junior Hakim Hart’s defense, here are three takeaways from the Terps’ 68-60 win over Rutgers at the Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey, on Tuesday.
Qudus Wahab continues strong run
Over the last two games, Wahab has found his confidence again. After averaging 3.2 points over a five-game stretch, the Georgetown transfer has turned a corner, recording 10 points and six rebounds against the Scarlet Knights, marking the second straight game he has scored in double figures.
After Wahab’s 11-point performance in an 81-65 win over then-No. 17 Illinois, interim coach Danny Manning praised the big man for being aggressive around the rim by grabbing three offensive rebounds. Last night, Manning felt Wahab put himself in great post position to score the Terps’ first six points.
“He’s finding different ways to score the basketball and being efficient when he gets his touches,” Manning said. “That’s something that we need to continue to happen.”
This season, Wahab is averaging 8.4 points and 6.1 rebounds a game, but he started his Terps tenure with a bang, averaging 17.5 points in the first two games, including an 18-point, 15-rebound performance against George Washington in November.
But as he was still learning his place within the lineup, Wahab’s defense slipped and foul trouble kept him limited in many games. Having performances similar to the past two games gives Maryland an inside presence to score and get second chances, which could go a long way for a Terps team that hasn’t shot the ball well enough to go on a run.
Hakim Hart gets it done on defense
Hart’s impact on the game didn’t translate to the box score. While he finished with just five points in 34 minutes, he made his mark on the defensive end, where he was tasked with guarding Rutgers star Ron Harper Jr., who scored 31 points in the previous matchup on Jan. 15.
Despite being in foul trouble, Harper finished with 16 points on 7-for-16 shooting, but Manning thought Hart did a good job at contesting shots and preventing the Rutgers guard, who is shooting 43.8% from beyond the arc, from making any of his four 3-point attempts.
“[Harper] lit us up from [3-point line] the last time we played,” Manning said, “so Hakim did a good job being there and being a pesky defender.”
Hart’s defense has taken a major leap in his third season, as his 1.7 steals per game rank third in the Big Ten.
Hope is a powerful thing
After a dreadful 83-64 loss to Michigan, Maryland has won back-to-back games and played some of its most well-rounded basketball. Russell has played at a high level, and when he and Ayala are scoring the way they did Tuesday night, they are arguably one of the top backcourts in the conference.
Wahab is finding a groove and junior Donta Scott has averaged 15.2 points in the last five games. The Terps are currently sitting at 79th in KenPom and 96th in NET Rankings and they are 2-1 against ranked opponents. They will play three of its next four games at home, starting with Indiana on Saturday and then against No. 10 Michigan State, which lost to Illinois on Tuesday.
Throughout the season, Maryland has proven to be a team that will not give up. Even in losses, the Terps have battled until the end. If they can build off these last two outings, there might be some hope of changing the outlook of the season.
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