Friday, November 27, 2015

Instant Reactions: No. 2 Maryland 86, Rhode Island 63

The Maryland Basketball team finished its trip to Cancun with the sort of performance it needed heading toward the UNC game. Here's what you need to know.

The team plays Cleveland State at home in Maryland tomorrow on Saturday

No. 2 Maryland (5-0) played up to its ranking on Wednesday night for the first time, knocking off Rhode Island (3-2), 86-63. Here’s four quick thoughts...
(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)
A Comfortable Win
Must feel nice for Maryland fans. The Terps jumped out to a double-digit lead less than five minutes into the game and never looked back. The Rams brought the score within eight a couple of times, but after Jared Nickens hit a three off a feed fromRasheed Sulaimon with 10 minutes left in the first half, the Terps never allowed them to get within single-digits again. The lead expanded to 19 points in the first half -- 16 points heading into halftime -- and Maryland opened up the final period with four quick points to silence Rhode Island’s hopes of a comeback.
Simply put, this was easily the most complete game Maryland has played to date. This is what most expected when the Terps were given the top-five ranking heading into the year.
Trimble Sets the Tempo
This is still Melo Trimble’s team. He sets the tone for the game. When he’s tight, the rest of the team is tight. But when he’s loose -- like he was on Wednesday night -- his confidence and poise rubs off on his teammates.
For the first time all season, Trimble came out of the gates aggressive. Previously, he’d look for his teammates at first or the defenses would put such a big emphasis on guarding him that he’d be quiet. But the Rams -- who are strictly a man to man team -- played him straight up most of the night and Trimble ended the first half with 10 points (5-of-5 FGs), three assists and three steals. He capped off the half with a stepback jumper -- similar to the one last year against Michigan State, except nobody’s ankles were hurt in the process -- and went into the locker room flashing his trademark smile, which seemed to have disappeared at the beginning of this season.
That’s what Trimble looks like when he’s having fun. It’s also when he’s at his best. When analysts describe him, they simply say he’s a “basketball player” and that’s what he played like on Wednesday night. He didn’t think about whether he should be scoring or passing on each possession -- or whether he should be playing more like a point guard or shooting guard; instead he chose to dictate the game himself and do what he does best: get to the basket and make plays. As talented as his supporting cast is, Maryland’s at its best when the game runs through Trimble and for the first time all season, he put his mark on the game from the very start.
Trimble finished with 17 points (7-of-7 FGs), six rebounds, four assists, three steals and two turnovers.
The Terps' Best Player?
Robert Carter Jr. showed why some considered him the Terps’ best player over the summer; there’s not much he can’t do on the basketball court. In this game, he knocked down jumpers, drove to the basket, scored in the post, came up with steals and led the break and soared from out of nowhere to block shots.
Oh, and that was just in the game’s first 15 minutes. He later showed off his passing ability, as he did the other night against Illinois State when he found Damonte Dodd for two easy buckets.
And he did it against Hassan Martin, considered to be one of the most versatile defenders in the country. In theory, the 6-foot-7, 240 pound Martin -- who has a 7-foot-2 wingspan -- should be able to guard Carter Jr. as well as anyone. But the reality is, when Carter Jr. is on, he’s nearly impossible to defend.
That’s what he can do for Maryland: when the shot clock is winding down, he’s someone who can create a shot out of nothing. Turgeon has looked for a skilled power forward to spread the floor -- he tried to turn Evan Smotrycz into one -- and he finally has one in the Georgia Tech transfer.
Carter Jr. finished with 15 points (6-of-9 FGs), nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal.
No More Shooting Slump?
Coming into the championship game, Maryland was shooting 30 percent from three on the year and its worst shooting game -- a 5-22 performance against the Redbirds -- was still fresh in the memory.
But even though few play better perimeter defense than the Rams, the Terps were due to come out of their shooting slump. And they did. They shot ten of 17 from behind the arc.
Sulaimon (17 points) hit his first four from deep, Carter Jr. made one a hair behind the line and both Nickens and Layman came through with a pair after missing open shots the night before. Even freshman walk-on Andrew Terrell got into the mix with a late buzzer-beater.
Don’t expect the Terps to be this hot for the duration of the season, but this game does paint a better portrait of their shooting abilities than their three-point percentage coming into this game did.