Heading into Tuesday night’s game as 6.5-point underdogs, the Maryland Terrapins relied on hustle, defense, and mental toughness in order to upset No. 5 Wisconsin 59-53 in front of an electric crowd at the Xfinity Center in College Park. It marked a fourth consecutive win for the Terps, and the first loss for the Badgers in more than six weeks.
Now onto some notes, chatter, and random observations from the couch.
— Holy defense. The Terps played tremendous defense throughout the game, with early pressing, tight man-defense, good communication. The Badgers shot just 30 percent in the first half, only hitting one bucket from beyond the arc and marking a season-low for points in a half (20).
— Michal Cekovsky’s stat line won’t stack up anywhere close to that of Dez Wells or Melo Trimble, but he was arguably just as important. Despite his inexperience, Cekovsky is the Terps’ most talented big man (albeit a raw set of skills), and he showed why in his ability to contain one of the nation’s best players in Frank Kominsky. When rebounds were high and hard to get, Cekovsky was boxing out and competing with the 7-foot Kominsky, giving the Terps an actual chance at the described 50/50 balls. It was a great step forward for Cekovsky and it was nice to see the coaches trusting him in a big spot. He finished with four points and six rebounds in 24 minutes.
Meanwhile, starting center Damonte Dodd played just seven minutes, while backup big man Jon Graham saw no action.
— Freshman point guard Melo Trimble has been nothing shy of spectacular this season, including in this game against the Badgers. But if Trimble is the Terps’ engine, Dez Wells is the rocket fuel that propels them to that next level. He did absolutely everything in this game, from shooting, to driving, to pushing the tempo, to attacking the rim on fast breaks, to playing defense. Aside from a couple forced shots in the second half, you can’t come up with a bad thing to say about Wells’ performance. He finished with 26 points (on 9-of-17 shooting), seven rebounds, and four assists in 31 minutes, accounting for 44 percent of Maryland’s 59 total points.
The Terps needed this out of Wells in this game (and in every game against a good opponent, really) and he provided. This was the eighth consecutive game in which he’s scored in double figures.
— Jake Layman was off on Tuesday night. He didn’t shoot it particularly well (3-of-11) and he finished with less than half his average points per game (6). Luckily, the lack of scoring didn’t cause for major concern in this game, and it was awesome to see Layman continue to fight for rebounds, hustle and dive for loose balls, continue to support his teammates, etc. Layman may not have been having his finest hour on offense, but he didn’t allow that to take him out of the game. He showed great poise and veteran savvy.
— Not that we should expect anything less from the crowd at College Park, but the Xfinity Center was absolutely insane on Tuesday night, and it sounded great on television. The fans did well to represent themselves on the national broadcast, including the few voices who seemed to be yelling directly into the microphones of commentators Mike Tirico and Jay Bilas with kind words such as, “SHUT-UP-BO”, as well as the middle-aged gentleman seated under one of the baskets who demanded, “FRANK, LOOK AT ME, FRANK!” in an effort to rattle Kominsky. Well done, everyone.
And this flash mob thingy during the break was fantastic.
– Really liked the Terps’ effort on the glass, and that’s to be said for both ends of the floor.
— All this said, Wisconsin is a very good team, and we’d be fools not to recognize a handful of their would-be routine shots simply not finding nylon (more so in the first half). Again, hats off to Maryland and their defense, but the Badgers helped too by missing a few easy ones.
— It’s not huge news any more because it’s been so consistent all season — which actually makes it that much more impressive — but Melo Trimble plays like he’s a junior. He’s calm and collected for every minute of every game, and that builds on his physical traits such as his quickness, hang time, control, etc.
And while on the topic, Trimble is kind of the anti-Wizards, right? Randy Wittman is constantly criticizing his Washington team for their inability to close a quarter, yet just a quick trip down the Beltway, Trimble has made a routine of closing out quarters and halves with huge shots, whether it be a crossover and pull-up three, or driving the lane without an angle on the basket and a defender draped all over him. Love this kid.
— The Badgers came out in the second half a bit pissed off. Either that, or Bo Ryan really got into their ear about needing to be more physical. More than likely a combination of both. But it was most apparent with potential rebounds floating in the air with both teams fighting to gain position and Wisconsin players getting crafty with their subtle holds and pulls.
It’s a part of the game, we all know that. And to claim Maryland players weren’t doing the same thing would be ignorant. I only bring it up as more of a look into how Ryan’s halftime talk may have went and how his team responded. Wisconsin was much improved in the second half.
— Random Observation 1: The Terps rank 86th in the nation in three-point attempts this season, averaging close to 20 per game. Against Wisconsin, they attempted only seven.
— Kaminsky the Monster started to rear its ugly head in the second half. The guy’s a skyscraper with legs and, as Jay Bilas described, operates with great feet. Just a polished ball player with high game IQ.
— Random Observation 2: From the neck up, Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker looks like a high school senior from the 50’s. Like his friends all call him Butch and he drives a pretty sweet set of wheels and his dad is the local auto mechanic in a small town. Not sure why his head reminds me of such, but it does.
On the basketball side of things, Sam Dekker is a baller.
— It was crazy to look at the score with about six minutes to go and see 47-47. Up to that point (although the Badgers played better in the second half), the game felt as if the Terps were throwing their fair share of body blows controlling the fight. But that’s the thing about this Wisconsin team — they’re never really dead. They’re disciplined and they have the offensive talent to pull themselves up and get back in games.
After scoring 20 points in the first half, the Badgers went on a 13-4 run to open the second. You just can’t ever sleep on ‘em, regardless of lead size.
— Evan Smotrycz is usually good for more frustrating play than solid stuff, but he deserves credit in this game for his work on the defensive glass in the second half. Even when he wasn’t able to pull in a rebound (he finished the game with five), he did a nice job getting his body in there and opening up opportunities for his teammates to snatch it.
— Referring again to their disciplined brand of basketball, the Badgers don’t commit many fouls (they lead the nation with only 12.7 per game), but the Terps took advantage of their few trips to the free throw line, hitting 9-of-11.
— This dunk from Wells at the 4:00 mark. My goodness.
— For those first few games, it’d be fair to argue that Trimble looked a little out of control when shooting contested stuff near the rim. But after 28 games, we’ve come to understand that Trimble is in COMPLETE control of those shots. They look insane and without angle because they are insane and without angle, yet Trimble is so good at absorbing contact, dictating where he wants his shot to go, and that touch – OHHH LAWD THAT TOUCH AROUND THE RIM. The kid is special.
Oh yeah, and ice cold too. Melo Trimble is ice frickin’ cold.
— In regards to storming the court: no, it’s not a travesty. It’s not the worst thing on the planet, or the worst thing in sports, or the worst thing in college basketball. I don’t have a problem with court storming itself. The only time I’m slightly agitated is when the outcome of a game clearly doesn’t demand/dictate a storm.
In other words — at least as it pertains to this Terps squad — I’d prefer the players play as if they’ve played in big games before, and the crowd react as if they came in expecting victory. Storming the court and appearing completely shocked by the outcome (despite being the 14th-ranked team in the country) and showing that your excitement from a victory is literally enough to boil you over the rafters just doesn’t permeate enough “badass” for me. I’d much rather prefer to be “too cool for school” and strut off with the same confidence I entered the building with.
All that said, at the end of the day, court storming: so long as everyone remains safe, who really cares.
- It’s a little nerd note I like to take and then look back on when I’m filling out my bracket in March. (back)