By Ethan Cadeaux (@Ethan_301)
Coming off a big win over renewed rival Georgetown, the Terps seemed to have plenty of momentum heading into a home matchup with Rider, who had dropped their first two games on the season. But the Broncs gave the Terps everything they could handle, as the Terps overcame a 14-point second half deficit to defeat the Broncs 65-58.
“I’ll take a lot of the blame for the way we played,” said Terps head coach Mark Turgeon. “I didn’t have us ready.”
It took the Terps over 34 minutes to gain their first lead of the game, when senior guard and Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon hit a runner in the paint to put the Terps up 52-50.
The Broncs opened the second half on a 12-0 run, extending their lead to 14 points early in the second half. Maryland finally responded after being faced with their largest deficit of the season, finished the game on a 35-13 run to survive the scare.
For a second straight game, the Terps started off cold. The Rider zone defense forced the Terps to take many contested jump shots, and prevented Maryland from getting into any rhythm offensively.
The Terps gave Rider a piece of their own medicine, as they switched to a 1-3-1 zone in the second half. The Rider offense that was hitting on all cylinders in the first half went cold.
“We made adjustments, tried to make adjustments at halftime but we weren’t really paying attention,” said Turgeon. “We finally made [adjustments] when we were down 14. We need to play better. It’s on us to win these games. Rider was terrific tonight but we just need to get better, and it’s my job to get them playing better.”
Tonight marked a breakout game for highly touted freshman center Diamond Stone, who was replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Michal Cekovsky. Stone came off the bench and provided a spark for the Terrapin offense. In just 19 minutes, Stone scored 12 points on 6 for 7 shooting, as well as adding five rebounds and two blocks.
“I just figured that I could be a spark and try to help us win,” said Stone, who insisted he was not mad about being replaced in the starting lineup. “I think [Cekovsky] played hard, Damonte played hard, I played hard; we all played hard. I was just waiting for my number to be called, and once [it was called], I wanted to perform.”
Coach Turgeon offered some high praise for Stone, after the big man responded with his best game of the season after coming off the bench.
“I keep saying defensively is where he needs to grow the most. I think he grew tonight defensively,” said Turgeon. “He’s a tough kid and wants to be great. As a coach I just have to be patient with him and make him better.”
Stone anchored the comeback with his dominant presence on both ends of the floor, and once he started controlling the paint, the rest of the Terps offense started to open up.
“They just said keep rolling, we’re following you,” said Stone. “Everything just started coming to place, Melo [Trimble] started rolling, Rasheed [Sulaimon] started rolling, Jake [Layman] started rolling, Rob [Carter Jr. as well] and it had the domino effect.”
Stone led the Terps back in the game, but Maryland leaned heavily on their two leaders, Trimble and Layman, to close the game out. The two combined to score 11 of the last 13 Terrapin points, and hit six clutch free throws to put Rider out of reach.
“The whole time, I always thought we were going to come back,” said Layman on the comeback victory. “We were down , and obviously that is not a good spot to be in. We showed some good things toward the end of the game, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
The Terps head to Mexico next week, as they face Illinois State in the first round of the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday.
“This is great for us,” said Turgeon, regarding the Terps trip to Mexico. “This is why [I] do these trips, to get away, you bond, when we are on the court we will concentrate, and when we are off the court we are going to have fun together. I think we will really bond on this trip, I think it is perfect timing for us.”