Three Takeaways from the Maryland men’s basketball season opener

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Maryland men’s basketball opened up the 2021-2022 season last night, beating Quinnipiac 83-69. Five Terrapins scored in double figures, headlined by Georgetown transfer Qudus Wahab, who had a team high 17 points. Senior Eric Ayala became the 58th player in program history to score 1000 points, and ended with 13 points. 

Maryland dominated the first-half, holding the Bobcats to 25 points. The lead diminished some in the second half once the game was already out of reach, and Maryland cruised comfortably to victory. 

The defense has elite potential. 

Head coach Turgeon was not happy with the defense in the second half, but the Terps still flashed the ability to be special defensively.

In the first half, they held Quinnipiac to 8-27 (29.6%) from the field, including forcing nine turnovers. Particularly impressive on that end was Hakim Hart, who had three steals in the first half alone. Hart led all players in the game with a +24 plus minus, and earned a shoutout from Turgeon in the post-game press conference. 

“One guy we don’t talk about is Hakim [Hart]. He was terrific.” Turgeon said, “Makes  all the right plays, makes all the right decisions, really gotten better guarding the basketball.”

Maryland mixed in full court pressure twice, both times out of timeouts. In the first half, the pressure led to a couple forced turnovers, and really helped the Terps  take control of the game. The team will likely still play mostly half-court man to man defense, but the full court pressure looks like a useful alternative approach that Maryland can take when it needs one.  

In the second half, Maryland allowed the Bobcats to shoot 51.7% from the field, but still held them to 41.1% shooting on the game. It may not have been the total 40 minute domination Turgeon was looking for, but there were signs in the first half that this team has promise as a defensively focused unit. 

This team is tall and has solid depth

A lot has been made of the new faces on the Terps this season, and their new depth is noticeable. 

“We have seven starters,” Turgeon said after the game, referring to freshmen center Julian Reese and sophomore transfer Ian Martinez. 

Nine players played double digit minutes, including forwards Xavier Green and Pavlo Dziuba. In the first half, it looked like Maryland was eager to play a full nine-man rotation, with Fatts Russell and Martinez playing together at times. 

One thing that stands out about a lot of the rotation players is size. Wahab (6-foot-11) and Reese (6-foot-9) are massive, and ensure that the team has rim-protection on the court at all times. 

Arguably more impressive is their depth on the wing. Hart and Xavier Green are both long, athletic wings who are capable on-ball defenders. Dziuba, and Donta Scott provide some of the same perimeter defense along with some interior ability as well as freakish athleticism. 

This length is particularly noticeable when Eric Ayala subs out, as it seems Turgeon’s first preference is to have Hakim Hart move to shooting guard. In those situations, with Hart, Scott, and Xavier Green running the wings, the team should excel defensively. The possible lineup combinations are endless thanks to the breadth of guard and wing talent that brim the roster.  

Qudus Wahab Can Score in a lot of ways. 

Wahab got his points in a variety of ways. He has a really good feel with his back to the basket in the low block, but also did an especially great job running hard on the break and establishing position.

On one play, he caught a long pass right under the basket for an easy layup. But even when his hustle does not result in a fast break score, he does a great job establishing position deep on the block which lets Maryland get good looks early in the offense. 

“Fatts and EA (Eric Ayala), those guys look for me when I run,” said Wahab, “its just good for us to run, and to get easy baskets in transition.”

Wahab’s dominance seems to be rubbing off on his young teammate Reese, who did a nice job of running the floor as well, and finished with 11 points on 5-7 shooting. 

Maryland has a busy stretch coming up, with five games in a ten day stretch. Their next game is Thursday night at home against George Washington.