Maryland basketball finds its groove, blows out Saint Peters

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball (9-3) returned back to its winning ways on Thursday, besting Saint Peter’s (6-6) in a 75-45 thrashing at home. More importantly, tonight’s showing resembled the Terps squad that got them off to a red-hot 8-0 start, and leave an ugly three-game losing streak in their rearview mirror.

The Terps appeared to have taken full advantage of the eight-day hiatus since finding themselves at the wrong end of a UCLA blowout last Wednesday, shrugging off an inconsistent start to shoot 54% for the game. They still put up 21 threes but hit 38% of them to finish efficiently. 

“It was much needed to get back on track mentally,” said Ian Martinez on the long break between games.

Junior guard Martinez got his second start with Maryland and first of the year, taking over for a struggling Don Carey, who’s shot 30% from three-point range and 24% from the field in 11 starts this season. Martinez impressed in Maryland’s last game against UCLA, dropping a team-high 16 points on 4-5 shooting from deep. This lineup alteration should not come as a surprise, as Maryland coach Kevin Willard recently hinted at “[Ian] getting more minutes might be the norm going forward.”

“Every once in a while, you tinker, but by this time of year, we’re pretty much set,” Willard said after changing his routine starting lineup for the first time this season.

Sophomore big man Reese did not suit up today, likely as a precautionary measure after he got elbowed in the shoulder going for a rebound against UCLA. Patrick Emilien has earned his minutes so far as a clever backup center, and tonight earned his first start with the team.

Maryland’s defense showed up from the opening tip, as the Terps forced the Peacocks into a shot clock violation on their first defensive possession. Martinez justified his start early, getting the Terps’ first bucket and forcing Saint Peter’s Cam Young into traveling on the other end. Their quick 6-0 start had to feel good after falling down 7-0 to the Bruins and never getting close again last week.

The Peacocks showed their strengths early, taking advantage of an absent Reese to snag three offensive rebounds in one possession halfway through the first half. Their lack of shooting (39.5% from the field, fourth worst in Division 1 men’s basketball, and 31.1% from three) didn’t take long to get exposed by the Maryland perimeter defense, but the Terps didn’t fare much better. Neither team shot above 40% through the first ten minutes, with Scott in particular struggling, missing his first five attempts.

The Terps reemerged offensively a few minutes later, capping off another rapid-fire 6-0 run from inside the arc. Their three-ball had done them little good in recent games, so adjusting to attacking the basket seemed like the right call to take advantage of a stagnant Peacocks offense. That 6-0 run became a 12-1 run, allowing the Terps to coast to a 35-19 lead at the half. 

Maryland remained efficient throughout the first 20 minutes, shooting 13 for 26 from the field and 10 for 14 on two-pointers. It committed two turnovers to Saint Peter’s nine, and the Terps scored 14 in transition while the Peacocks had yet to accomplish that task in the half.

Isiah Dasher, one of four returning players from last year’s magical March Madness Cinderella run to the Elite Eight as a 15 seed, served as the only offensive creator his team had going through the first half. He had seven points, and no other Peacock had more than four. Their rebounding proved itself a real asset, collecting 20 to Maryland’s 15, and lead the offensive rebounding category 8-3. Going into tonight, they’ve wrangled in 14.8 offensive boards a game, the fourth most of any D-1 program.

Scott, who went 1-7 from the field and totaled two points in the first half, opened the second period with a bang, hitting back to back threes on Maryland’s only two attempts to that point. Hakim Hart joined him soon after for a third straight connection from deep, with it taking four minutes to hit as many threes in the second half as they did in the entire first half. 

Don Carey and Jahari Long didn’t take long to bury Maryland’s seventh and eighth threes of the evening, capping off a 13-0 run over the span of two minutes to go up 59-28 with 13 minutes remaining.

The Peacocks soon showed their knack for fouling, as they’d go on to collect 15 in the second half alone to send the brewing blowout into a free throw shootout. Heading into tonight, they averaged 23.3 personal fouls an outing, second-most in Division 1.

Don Carey took on more ball-handling responsibilities in his first game as a full-time member of the second unit. His long ball has still yet to warm up as he went 1-6 from deep, but he spent more time on-ball driving and kicking out to shooters, which showed in his season-high four assists.

Hakim Hart finished with a team-high 20 points on 7-8 shooting, including going 6-6 from within the three-point line to follow up the career-high 32-point outing he dropped the last time he played the Peacocks. Jahmir Young contributed 14 points of his own on 3-4 shooting and added four assists and four rebounds.

“I feel like we’ll have success if we do that in the future,” said Young on Maryland’s team cohesion to set each other up with open shots.