Basketball

Three takeaways from Maryland men’s basketball win over Minnesota

Three takeaways from Maryland men's basketball win over Minnesota

Maryland took care of business against Minnesota in an 84-73 win in its final regular-season home game and on senior night at College Park.

The Terps have looked like a revamped and dynamic team over the past two weeks. They have won four of their last five games with one game remaining on their schedule against Michigan State on Sunday. Next, the Terps travel to Indianapolis for the Big Ten tournament next week.

The seniors were honored before the game with a brief ceremony. Guards Eric Ayala and Fatts Russell were honored at the ceremony, then put on a show once the ball was knocked down.

Little defense was on display from either team, especially in the first half. Minnesota star Jamison Battle had a career day with 39 of 14 points on 31 shooting from the field.

However, down the stretch, it was senior guard Eric Ayala and junior guard Hakim Hart who punched two huge threes to give Maryland a comfortable advantage.

Let’s get to some takeaways from the last home game of the regular season.

The Maryland offense clicks at the right time.

Maryland plays its best basketball exactly when any team wants it. While it’s probably too little, too late for this Maryland team as they won’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament unless they win the Big Ten Conference Tournament, they have completely turned a corner offensively in recent weeks.

It starts with the backcourt of the Terps. The potential was there all season for the duo of Russell and Ayala to be one of the best guards in the conference. They struggled early in the season and inconsistent performances, but recently they have been carrying the Terps with their scoring prowess and ability to play.

Russell, in particular, has been phenomenal. He’s averaging 22.6 points on 45.5 percent shooting in his last six games.

Maryland’s three-point shooting has improved dramatically, which is also a factor in offensive boost. But more than anything, this can be attributed to an increase in ball movement and pace of play.

The Terps have been playing at a faster pace and are getting contributions from all of their big minute players. While Ayala and Russell led the charge, Donta Scott, Hakim Hart and Qudus Wahab were also strong.

It wasn’t Maryland’s three-point shot that led them to victory Wednesday night. Rather, it was the dominance of the Terps in the paint. Maryland outscored Minnesota 46-14 in points in the paint.

Wahab dominated on the inside when on the floor, finishing with 10 points in 15 minutes. Freshman Julian Reese also had an impressive performance, adding 12 points.

Balance is key when Maryland’s offense is consistent. Against Minnesota, Maryland had five players who finished in double figures.

“We are dangerous men,” Ayala said. “I said it in our last post game and I wouldn’t want to play us.”

It would take a miracle for Maryland to enter an unprecedented Big Ten tournament, but they are certainly a threat to any team in the conference. If the Terps’ recent offensive drive goes to Indianapolis, no Big Ten team will be happy to go up against Maryland in any round.

Maryland’s poor defensive first half was better in the second half.

At halftime, Maryland was only leading by four due to poor defensive performance. The Terps put up 41 points in the first half, which is usually enough to gain a huge advantage. But Maryland struggled defensively, allowing 37 points in the first half. The Terps’ problems came against Minnesota’s three-point threats. The Gophers made seven of their first 10 3-point attempts and shot 46.7 percent from three through the first 20 minutes.

For Maryland to retire and win their second game in a row, they would have to increase defensive intensity and defend the ball deep.

Minnesota star Jamison Battle was long-range unconscious all night and Maryland had no answer. Battle had 20 points in the first half and finished with a career-high 39 for the game on 7 on 16 shooting from three points.

“He was on fire,” Russell said. “He was doing hard punches, overhand, on two people. To his credit, he had a hell of a game today.

Although it failed to contain Battle in both halves, Maryland regained their defensive energy in the second half. With Hart and Scott making their presence felt, Minnesota began to turn icy, which allowed the Terps to make several runs in the second half and ultimately pull away.

Minnesota shot 43% from the field and 46% from three in the first half and 36% from the field and 30% from three in the second half.

Maryland still gave up 36 points in the second half, but when it mattered most, they got the saves needed to claim the victory.

Maryland has a good chance of avoiding the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

A few weeks ago, it seemed inevitable that Maryland would play in the first round of the Big Ten tournament where the conference’s bottom four seeds meet. The top 10 teams in the conference earn a first-round bye and automatically advance to the second round of the tournament.

For most of the season, Maryland has sat in the 12-13 range, but a late-season resurgence — winning four of its last five games — puts Maryland in 10th place in the conference with one game. to play.

If Maryland can secure a win over Michigan State in its final game of the season, it will surely earn 10th place in the conference and a first-round bye. Whether Maryland loses to Michigan State will depend on how Penn State finishes the season.

Penn State and Maryland are currently tied for 10th place, but the Terps have the advantage as they beat the Nittany Lions in a one-on-one matchup. Penn State is wrapping up its season with Illinois and Rutgers in the next few days, two games it is expected to lose.

If Penn State pulls off an upset, they’ll get the first-round bye. Otherwise, he will go to Maryland.

While avoiding a first-round game isn’t everything — as teams down the conference are usually an early exit anyway — it may give Maryland more rest as they look to shock the world and to perform a miracle in Indianapolis next week.

“We’re trying to get this exemption game,” Russell said. “I know we’re close and we have to finish strong…we talked about it because you know, five games in five days is very difficult.”