Hard work pays off for Terrapins in 83-81 victory over No. 2 Blue Devils

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. –

Losing to Duke on Saturday night was not an option for the Maryland Terrapins.

Saturday’s game against the No. 2 Blue Devils was as “must-win” as “must-win” gets.

It was simple. In order to have any shot at earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, any shot at all, they just had to beat Duke.

But beating Duke isn’t an easy thing to do. The Blue Devils entered the game with just two losses in 24 contests this year, both coming against teams ranked inside the top-25. Maryland had just one victory against a top-25 team and lost to the Blue Devils by 20 in their first meeting.

But the Terrapins put in the hard work necessary to pull off a season-saving victory.

“It has been a hard week,” said Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon, who was emotionally drained following the Terrapins’ thrilling 83-81 victory over No. 2 Duke on Saturday night in College Park, Md.

“I worked them really hard this week and challenged them in a lot of different areas. I told them we don’t have to do anything extraordinary. We just have to play to our level. And that’s what we did. We continued to compete.”

The Terps had not played since last Sunday, when they squandered an oppurtunity at home to beat a quality Virginia team, losing 80-69. Teams only get so many real days of physical practice. With travel and scouting and walk-throughs, teams don’t get too many high-intensity practices on a weekly basis.

Maryland’s week off couldn’t have come at a better time. Maryland needed this win, and put all their available resources into getting the win.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski thought that Maryland’s extra preparation made a difference. “I thought the week of preparation they had for this game was huge. They were fresh, they were determined and it was a tough game for us to play.”

Consider this. Maryland finished with 26 turnovers yet still won the game. They committed 26 turnovers against the No. 2 team in the nation, yet still won.

I’ll say it again: 26 turnovers.

“[Coach] said to just play through [the turnovers]. That’s a big test of your maturity, to go through the next play. I just tried to have amnesia, and tried to play every time,” said Seth Allen, who finished with 17 points and made two fouls shots with two seconds remaining to give the Terrapins a two point lead.

See, the only way a team can win a game in which they commit 26 turnovers is to outcompete their opposition. And that’s exactly what the Terps did.

The Terps won because they competed. They grabbed 40 rebounds, had seven steals and blocked six shots. Duke grabbed just 20 rebounds, and blocked one shot.

A less determined Maryland team would have settled for jumpers. Instead the Terps got after it, attacked the paint, and maximized scoring opportunities. Maryland went to the foul line 34 times on Saturday, and made 25 of the attempts. Duke went to the foul line just 21 times and made only 15.

“I don’t know what 14 times 500 is, but we shot that many free throws this week,” Said Turgeon. “The key was that we got to the foul line. We haven’t shot 34 free throws in a long time. We drove the ball and were aggressive and got to the line.”

Alex Len, who finished with a team-high 19 points, was aggressive down low, and was rewarded with eight trips to the foul line. He finished 7-for-8. Len dominated his one-on-one matchup with National Player of the Year candidate Mason Plumlee.

“I challenged Alex about being Mason Plumlee’s little brother. He treats you like a little brother. He said ‘I’m tired of being a little brother, it’s time for us to step up and act like on of the big guys on the block.'”

In their first meeting, back on January 26th, Plumlee finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds. On Saturday night he finished with four points and three rebounds.

This was a game that Maryland had to win. They needed this win. They didn’t just want to beat Duke, they had to beat Duke, and their play on Saturday expressed their desire.

They wanted a win and they needed a win, so they physically took it from Duke. It’s not always the best solution, but sometimes it beats the alternative.

There was no alternative for Maryland on Saturday night.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.