Entering the 2014-15 season after losing five transfers in the offseason, not many counted on Maryland to have much of a chance to make a significant splash in college basketball this season.
Head coach Mark Turgeon still had veteran talent in Dez Wells and Jake Layman and a touted freshman class with some perimeter shooters, but nobody could have expected the Terrapins to play the way they did in an impressive 72-63 win over No. 13 Iowa State on Tuesday night.
Maryland captured the CBE Hall of Fame Classic title in Kansas City in front of a pro-Iowa State crowd and slowed down a prolific offense that was averaging 86 points per game entering Tuesday’s championship. None of that seemed to faze the Terps.
Mixing a balanced lineup of fearless freshmen and physical veterans, Maryland used its size and toughness to win the battle on the interior and force Iowa State into a lot of tough looks. The Cyclones also couldn’t get a perimeter look to fall for much of the game, but a lot of credit is due to the Terrapin defense for slowing down an offense that can really run-and-gun.
Turgeon opted to go with a bigger lineup on Tuesday and it gave Iowa State fits. The Cyclones only shot 29 percent from the field and 22 percent from the three-point line for the game and generally lost a lot of battles for 50-50 balls and rebounds that could have gone either way.
On the offensive side of things, freshman guard Melo Trimble didn’t have the scorching 31-point outing he had in the semifinals, but he still had 11 points, three assists and three steals while another freshman, wing Jared Nickens, added 15 points off the bench. Freshman big man Michal Cekovsky was also a key defensive presence as he scored four points, collected eight rebounds and blocked two shots as his length gave Iowa State’s offense some problems.
Junior forward Jake Layman started the game in quiet fashion but ended up with 15 points for Maryland while Dez Wells’ athleticism and strength was a problem for Iowa State’s guards as he finished with 14.
No defense had figured out Iowa State early in the season, but Maryland’s combination of size and physicality helped them put the Cyclones 23 points below their average offensive output. We’ve already seen early in the season that Trimble can put up points in a hurry and freshmen like Nickens and Dion Wiley can shoot and by combining them with guys who have been in ACC wars like Layman and Wells, Maryland is a lot more cohesive — especially on the defensive end — than anyone would have believed entering the season.
A lot of credit goes to Turgeon. He threw a different look at Iowa State and his players responded with a balanced and aggressive attack.
Could we be seeing a situation at Maryland this year that was similar to Rick Barnes and Texas last season? It certainly looked bad when five regular contributors left the program this offseason, but maybe getting rid of the guys that weren’t buying in and replacing them with a young and hungry freshman class is the recipe Turgeon was looking for?
If Maryland keeps staying this committed on the defensive side of things like they were in the CBE Classic, they’ll be a tough out every night in the Big Ten this season.
From hot seat to hot start, Turgeon has to be feeling good and Maryland is looking like a legitimate postseason candidate after a strong early start.