By: Joe Catapano
Entering Saturday’s game against Michigan, Jared Nickens was 11-for-42 from 3-point range this season, an abysmal 26.2 percent. With the emergence of three freshman starters, Nickens’ playing time has dropped to just over 11 minutes per game.
But the junior returned to a form that Terps fans arguably haven’t seen since his freshman year. Nickens played 17 minutes, hitting four threes in as many shots in Maryland’s 77-70 win in Ann Arbor.
Other than a few players, Coach Turgeon tried to give his men equal playing time throughout non-conference play, but during close games and so far in Big Ten competition, Turgeon put players on the court based off of who was playing the best.
Nickens didn’t see an increase in playing time on Saturday because the game was a blowout, but because for the first time all season, he deserved to be on the court.
Maryland led the Wolverines 37-28 at halftime, but came out flat to start the second half. They missed their first six shots, with two turnovers and were 0-for-3 on 3-point attempts, which Maryland only shot four times the entire first half.
The Terps appeared to be collapsing just as they did in the final minutes Tuesday in the loss to Nebraska. But a 3-pointer, Maryland’s first field goal of the half, got the Terrapins out of their slump and back into the game.
The shot didn’t come from Trimble, who is notorious for leading the Terps by example, or Huerter, who sunk seven 3-pointers just four days ago. The momentum-shifting pull-up three came from Nickens, his third of the game.
But Nickens wasn’t the only surprising star in Maryland’s win over Michigan.
Forward Damonte Dodd returned from an MCL injury Tuesday against Nebraska where he played limited minutes off the bench. Saturday, for the first time since Dec. 3 against Oklahoma State, where he had 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, Dodd started for the Terps.
Dodd not only propelled Maryland to a fast first-half start, but helped close off the game, which came down the final minute. The senior finished with a career-high 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and four rebounds.
Along with Dodd’s performance down low, freshman Justin Jackson provided an additional presence in the paint, scoring 15 points of his own and added six rebounds.
Dodd and Jackson’s success in the paint opened up shots beyond the arc, which Maryland shot an impressive 67 percent in the game. After missing their first three 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the second half, the Terrapins closed the game a perfect 6-for-6 from 3-point range.
With the game coming down to the final minute, Jackson and fellow freshman Anthony Cowan hit all four combined free throws to put the game out of reach. The Terps hit 11-of-14 shots from the charity stripe.
Maryland returns to College Park to play Indiana on Tuesday at 9 p.m. after winning in its first true road game of the season. The Hoosiers defeated Maryland 80-62 at home last season.