Maryland just played the most important half of basketball that they’ll play all season long.
The Terps had entered the night just 2-2 in league play — with wins over Boston College and Georgia Tech — and 10-7 overall. They had lost their last two games and had been beaten by every relevant team they played. Their best win on the season? Either the Yellow Jackets or Northern Iowa. That’s not good.
On Wednesday, Maryland hosted a Notre Dame team that had lost two in a row since their surprising win over a struggling Duke team at home. Remember the game that Jabari Parker got benched for playing so poorly? Yeah, that was against the Irish. Point being, Maryland had a chance to pick off another stumbling, middle-of-the-ACC-pack team in a game that they really, really needed to win, and ten minutes into the game, the Terps were already down double-digits.
Notre Dame took a 34-25 lead into the half, but in the final 20 minutes, Maryland took over. They went on a 16-2 run to open up the second half, extending their to as much as 12 before holding on and winning 74-66.
Dez Wells scored 17 points, all in the second half, and Seth Allen went for 14 in his first start of the season, but what won this game for Maryland was their defense. They were much more active in the final 20 minutes, turning Notre Dame over and forcing them into tough shots.
It’s going to be an uphill battle for the Terps if they want to make the NCAA tournament, but this is a good way to start to turn things around.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.