March 26, 2017

Maryland Basketball: Terps shoot lights out from deep to pound Illinois and send Seniors out on top

(Photo by: @TerrapinHoops)

(Photo by: @TerrapinHoops)

The Maryland Terrapins are clearly not playing their best basketball; luckily they have a couple of short weeks to try and get back on track. After losing to Purdue on the road, their third loss in the past four games, bracketologist Joe Lunardi has dropped the Terps to a four seed, a would be huge disappointment given the pre-season hype. Following an emotional senior day presentation for starters Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon as well as reserves Varun Ram and Trevor Anzmann it was pedal to the metal for Maryland. The Terps lead for the entire game, made a season-high 14 3-pointers, and saw all four of their seniors get playing time. The 81-55 victory was a “fun night” for the Terps according to their head coach in what could be a taste of what is to come.

With Diamond Stone in foul trouble, Mark Turgeon opted to go small

The highly touted freshman big only played nine minutes in the first half and sat the final five minutes after picking up his second foul. Instead of Damonte Dodd taking over as the Terps center, Turgeon opted to go small. Robert Carter Jr. slid to the rim protector position, while Layman moved to his future NBA position as a stretch-four power forward. With Jared Nickens returning back to non-conference form by hitting a couple 3-pointers, Maryland’s offense became more efficient. Turgeon continued to do the same in the second half, which clearly allowed more driving room from guards into the paint.

Putting their foot on Illinois’ throat to start the second half ended things early

As a part of the 3-point festivities, Maryland had a stretch where they came away with three triples after three possessions. Trimble started things off, Layman hit one after grabbing an offensive rebound, and then Nickens continued to look like his old self by burying one from deep to force an Illinois timeout. Maryland led by double digits the rest of the way. In a year where Maryland as narrowly escaped with victories against inferior teams, it was good to see them take care of business on their home floor. Turgeon explicitly credited Terp Nation, “I want to thank the fans” for the one-loss home record in back-to-back seasons.

Terps return to form from beyond the arc with best performance of the year

For only the second time during conference play Maryland shot better than 50 percent from 3-point range. With the recent struggles of Nickens and Melo Trimble, the Terps have had to rely on their defense to win games. Today was a completely different story as the home team drained a season-high 14 shots from the bonus-sphere. Nickens tied his season-high with four 3-pointers as he was freed up with cross court passes when Maryland bigs were doubled.

Jake Layman “stuck with” Maryland making him one of Turgeon’s favorites

When the Wrentham, Massachusetts native signed with the Terps nearly five years ago, Mark Turgeon frankly admitted that the team was not very good at the time. Although it is not right to have favorites, “Jake’s one of my all-time favorites … because he stuck with me” Turgeon revealed after the game. “Most proud of his development as a player … he’s become a more complete player” Turgeon elaborated on what he thinks is a first-round pick. Nickens told the stretch-four that he loved him after his final home game of the year. Layman did not call an 18 point, 7 rebound, and 3 assist game the story book ending, but it is as close of one as you are going to get. Going forward, his versatility to play power forward might be the key to the Terps making a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

How many of the Terps played their last game at Xfinity?

Jake Layman, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Varun Ram are all out of Division-I eligibility and obviously will not step onto the Xfinity hardwood next season. The next question is how many out of Melo Trimble, Diamond Stone, and Robert Carter Jr. will be lost to the NBA draft. The entire starting five lineup have the potential to be first round picks and the latter three are probably more likely than not to go pro. As Trimble came off the court for possibly the final time, students chanted “one more year.” I doubt any of the three have decided their future already because a lot of the way this season ends might affect their decisions.

Maryland will finish their 2015-16 regular season by traveling to Bloomington to face the Big Ten regular season champion Indiana Hoosiers. The Terps have already clinched a double-bye in the conference tournament next week but can help their seeding with a road victory against a Top 25 school.

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