Three Takeaways from Maryland men’s basketball’s loss at Indiana

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Maryland (6-5, 1-4 B1G) was unable to contain forward Trayce Jackson-Davis who spearheaded Indiana’s (7-4, 2-2 B1G) second half comeback in the Terps 63-55 loss at Assembly Hall Monday night. 

Jackson-Davis scored 22 points, 17 of which came in the second half and tacked on 15 rebounds to pace the Hoosiers. Aaron Wiggins led Maryland with 22 points, but the Terps prolonged scoring drought in the second half combined with Jackson- Davis’ impressive performance was too much for the Terps to overcome.

Here are my three takeaways from the defeat:

Maryland’s lack of size down low hurt them Monday night:

Each of the past two seasons, the Terps have had the luxury of having a dominant post presence inside with Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith. However, this season is much different for the Terps. They only have one player 7 foot or taller who plays consistent minutes with 7-foot-2 sophomore Chol Marial. His minutes have been limited as he’s battled foul trouble and is still working on improving his conditioning, as Marial only played one minute against the Hoosiers.

Lacking substantial size down low, Maryland’s low post responsibilities fell on the shoulders of Galin Smith, Donta Scott and Jairus Hamilton. Smith is the tallest of those three players at 6-foot-9, but only played 17 minutes as he fouled out with 5:48 remaining. In the first half, Smith did an admirable job with his low post defense but foul trouble limited his second half effectiveness.

Once Smith fouled out with less than six minutes remaining, Jackson-Davis really began to assert his will in the paint as he scored 10 consecutive points. Down the stretch, Jackson-Davis established strong post allowing him to convert tough finishes and second-chance opportunities.

One of the area’s where Maryland’s lack of size became most evident was on the glass. The Hoosiers out rebounded the Terps 43-33 and converted 14-second chance points. Despite lacking size, rebounding hasn’t really been an issue that’s troubled Maryland this season.

“It really came to rebounding, we just got our tails kicked on the boards,” head coach Mark Turgeon said.

“I think we have to do a better job of boxing out and just really competing on the boards,” guard Reese Mona said. “I think we just have to fight more, whether it’s a smaller lineup or a big lineup. We’ll learn from that, just try to be more physical on the boards in the future.”

Despite its lack of size, rebounding hasn’t been a struggle for Maryland this season. Monday night’s game was Maryland’s first without senior Darryl Morsell. Morsell is one of Maryland’s toughest players both defensively and on the boards, as the Terps toughness waned in moments without him. Facing off against Iowa’s Luka Garza and Illinois’s Kofi Cockburn in the next two games, Maryland will look to strengthen its toughness and positioning on the glass.

Aaron Wiggins puts together his most complete offensive performance:

Despite Maryland’s disappointing loss against the Hoosiers, one of the biggest bright spots for the Terps was junior Aaron Wiggins. Wiggins finished with a season-high 22 points and paced Maryland’s offense throughout scoring in a variety of ways. Against Michigan on Dec. 31, Wiggins struggled going just 2-11 from the field. 

The junior quickly bounced back from that performance shooting 8-15 overall and most encouraging 4-7 from behind the arc. In recent games, Wiggins has shown the propensity to be more aggressive, looking for his shot more. At the half, Wiggins led the Terps with 10 points, a key reason for their six-point halftime lead.

“It was a decent performance [for me] tonight,” Wiggins said. “I’m not worried about the way I play; I want to win, and we came up short. We’ve got to be better.”

For his opening basket, Wiggins converted on a turnaround jumper, a shot that he’s grown increasingly comfortable with during his time in College Park. On the ensuing possession, he confidently buried an open three in transition. Shortly before the end of the first half, Wiggins buried another three from the wing.

That momentum carried over into the second half where Wiggins tacked on 12 more points. He started his scoring in the final 20 minutes with his third three of the night, which extended Maryland’s lead to 10. 

His most impressive basket of the day came with the Terps in desperate need of a basket to stop a Hoosier run. Trailing by four with 8:45 remaining, Wiggins used his length and quickness to drive by his defender for a dunk to help the Terps briefly regain momentum. In the final two minutes, Wiggins tacked on two more baskets with an impressive scoop layup beating his defender off the dribble and his fourth and final three from way behind the arc. 

Wiggins’ impressive offensive output is an encouraging sign for Maryland. It’s also something they’ll need more of moving forward as the Terps are still trying to find their offensive identity without a key rotational player in Morsell. 

Maryland’s offense is still finding itself:

After back-to-back strong offensive performances against then No. 6 Wisconsin and then No. 16 Michigan, the Terps offense underwhelmed against the Hoosiers, particularly in the second half. Maryland mustered just 55 points including a 6:21 scoring drought as the second half progressed while the Hoosiers regained the lead.

“We’re not passing the ball quick enough, we’re holding the ball one second too long and missing some opportunities,” Turgeon said.

One of the issues that seemed to plague Maryland in the second half was over dribbling and not sharing the ball as much as they did in the previous two games. That can be a byproduct of the Terps rotating different players in and out trying a multitude of lineups. 

With Morsell’s absence, Turgeon gave 17-year-old James Graham III who just joined the program a week ago four minutes. In addition to Graham, Mona played 10 minutes, his highest total since the season opener against Old Dominion.

While Graham and Mona played extended minutes both Jairus Hamilton and Scott struggled to find their respective rhythms. The potent frontcourt duo combined for just 11 points and 4-16 shooting, unable to find success against the Hoosiers’ stout interior defense. Maryland’s offense functions at a high-level when both players are taking advantage of their ability to knock down spot up threes from behind the arc, but also take defenders off of the dribble.

“We’re really limited, I mean [Donta Scott] is playing three positions right now,” Turgeon said. “A lot goes on that limits us offensively, so we try to give them a little bit of freedom. We’re going to keep plugging, guys just have to move the ball better.”

Against Iowa and Illinois in its next two games, the Terps will look to have both players regain their scoring knack. As Turgeon has pointed out all season, one of the best things that can help Maryland’s offense navigate all of these varying lineups and personnel is consistent ball and body movement.

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