Maryland basketball answered the call in its first test of the season after moving to 5-0 following convincing wins over Saint Louis and Miami, giving the Terps the Hall of Fame Tipoff trophy.
Maryland head coach Kevin Willard deflected the notion that the team just picked up its first two signature wins
“We’re really not worried about signature wins or where we are. I think we still have a long way to go. I mean we’re good, we have great players, but they’re still trying to learn this system,” Willard added. Still, the win gave Maryland two wins over top-50 teams in the KenPom rankings as the Terps rise to 29th, making the case for a debut in the weekly rankings next week. “Beat a good St. Louis team and a good Miami team, that’s great. I think we still have a long way to go,” Willard added.
Senior forward Donta Scott combined for 49 points on 17-of-25 over the two games while the team shot a combined 54.9% from the field to lead the Terps to a win. After knocking down 13 threes against Saint Louis, Maryland finished 9-of-21 beyond the arc against Miami as Don Carey led the way with four threes on nine attempts. Carey and Young combined for 25 points, ten rebounds and three assists while both shooting over 45% from the field as Willard showed confidence in his starting backcourt.
“I think I have the best backcourt in the country right now and I think they’ll agree it’s the first time they’ve played this level of defense consistently. And to do that back-to-back, what I’m asking [Don] to do, what I’m asking [Jahmir] to do, some of those turnovers are just, it’s first time we’ve had to play back-to-back games.” A big reason that Maryland was able to control the game was dominating the glass 39-20 as Willard thought “we could really hurt them on the offensive glass.”
“I like the fact, again, I think Julian [Reese] and Donta and Pat [Emilien] are all playing really physical inside and I think our guards are doing a great job,” Willard added. “We showed a clip at halftime of Don hitting on a weakside box out. My point guard has five defensive rebounds, so it’s not just our big guys doing it. I think, Jahmir with five rebounds has rebound at an extremely high level. So, it’s a well-balanced team. And I think, rebounding. We’ve talked about all year so far is if we could rebound at a high level, we can be pretty good.”
The performances over the weekend validated the long-time hopes of fans to see an up-tempo offense and gritty defense as the Terps have been clicking on all cylinders to open the season. Scott’s efficiency on both ends of the court has helped the Terps shine while Julian Reese has shown flashes of becoming the two-way star inside that Maryland will need this season. Willard cautioned fans during the offseason that the Terps could hit their stride in late December or January, but after moving to 5-0 as the head coach at Maryland, fans have become enthused with the defensive intensity and offensive rhythm to start the season. He admitted he thought his team was “ahead defensively,” but reassessed his evaluation now five games in.
“I think as I’ve been getting to know these guys and get to know their personality, you know, they’re smart basketball players so that has really helped with what we’re trying to do on the defensive end. And I think offensively as they start to realize that, you know, the more the ball gets side to side, the more we get to second options. We’re becoming a very good offensive team, so we’re a little bit ahead, but again, I’m excited about the fact that I see so many things that we can get better at.”
Maryland will return to action on Friday afternoon to welcome former Terp Juan Dixon back into Xfinity Center as the head coach of Coppin State.