Maryland opened Big Ten conference play with a major statement, as they drubbed (84-59) an Illinois team that was on a 6-game winning streak. Despite missing two key big men, the Terps put together the most complete performance of the season (even Coach Turgeon was surprised about how well the team played). Here are some observations:
Anthony Cowan is the quintessential floor general for the Terps
The freshman played a team-high 34 minutes against Illinois, and for good reason. When Cowan was on the floor, Maryland had an offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) of 124 (really good!) and a defensive rating of 79 (elite!). He controlled the pace beautifully–striking a balance between making the right reads in the pick and roll and attacking the basket with ferocity. The lead guard dished out a cool 6 assists, and added 12 points of his own. Cowan also contributed 3 steals, 1 block, and committed only 1 turnover.
Cowan does not play like the freshman he is, and that is great news for Coach Turgeon. Every time I watch him play, there are at least two times when I ask, “Is this kid really a freshman?” Cowan will only get better from here on out, which helps Melo Trimble play his natural role of a scorer.
The defense was a well-oiled machine
Maryland wasn’t playing BAD defense in the non-conference portion of the schedule, but the team wasn’t GREAT on defense either. Against Illinois, however, the Terps showed us a glimpse of what their defense looks like when all members are locked into the scouting report. The Terps held a competent Illinois team to 59 points on 35% shooting. The only other time Illinois scored less than 60 points was against West Virginia, a team known to wreak havoc on most offenses. Most importantly, the Terps were able to keep the Illinois at bay from the 3-point line. The Fighting Illini shot a meager 18% from deep–a far cry away from the 39% which they had been shooting prior to the game. Illinois had an off night, but as a lot of the credit needs to go to Maryland.
Will there be more “small ball”?
With both centers–Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd–out with injuries, the Terps looked more comfortable offensively. Obviously with smaller (relatively) and more skilled players out on the floor, the more space there is for the guards to go to work. Was this a coincidence or just a “good night” for Maryland to shoot a ridiculous 68% from 2-point range? We shall soon find out. It is clear, however, that a smaller lineup should see more time.
Turnovers are still a problem
The Terps one of the worst teams in the country at keeping possession of the ball. This is a serious problem that needs to be corrected before playing stiffer competition. Melo Trimble is the main culprit, and needs tighten his control of the ball for the Terps to reach their peak.
The Terps get a week of rest before hosting Nebraska next Tuesday at noon.
Maryland received the most AP votes (40) for non-ranked teams, and given this shellacking of Illinois, I’d bet on them cracking the top-25 provided one or more teams slip out.