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Four Observations From Maryland’s Loss To Purdue

December 2, 2017
Purdue beat Maryland, 80-75, in College Park, Md. Dec. 1 in each team’s first game of Big Ten play. The Terps fell to 6-3 overall. Here are four observations about the loss: 

1. Purdue is an experienced, veteran team that’s poised to compete for the Big Ten title, while Maryland looked like it was a notch below the Boilermakers – at least at this stage of the season.

Purdue imposed its will early against Maryland, making it known how much of a challenge the Terps would face in trying to pull off what would’ve been their biggest win of the season. The Boilermakers jumped out to a 23-10 lead about eight minutes into the contest by beating Maryland inside and out.

The Boilermakers’ creative screens away from the ball sprung guards Dakota Mathias, Carsen Edwards, P.J. Thompson and forward Vincent Edwards open for 3-pointers, with Mathias leading the way with four 3-pointers in the first half. Purdue also emphasized early post touches for center Isaac Haas, with Terps senior forward Michal Cekovsky and freshman forward Bruno Fernando drawing the assignment against Haas in the first half. Neither Cekovsky nor Fernando could handle Haas one-on-one, and Haas scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the half. 

The Boilermakers’ first half lead hit 14 twice, including a 38-24 lead with 3:31 left in the half, and took a 43-37 lead into the locker room. Purdue shot 65.4 percent from the field and hit on 7-of-11 threes in the first half, running a variety of sets that produced open looks all over the court.

“They ran, it seemed like 30, 40 different plays tonight, and they execute them really well,” Maryland sophomore guard Kevin Huerter said. “We didn’t start off the game, again, guarding the way we’re capable. It seems to be a trend so far, is us not starting off games defensively very well.”

Also striking was how well Purdue weathered Maryland runs throughout the game. The Terps opened the second half on a 7-0 run to take a 44-43 lead, but Purdue went on an 11-0 run to take back control of the game. Maryland then went on an 11-2 run to cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 57-55, but then Purdue scored the next five points of the game. 

Not coincidentally, of the eight Boilermakers that played 10 or more minutes, five were juniors or seniors. Haas and Mathias, both seniors, combined for 41 points. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon also referenced that Purdue played in the World University Games in August, giving them a month during the summer to practice and play. Meanwhile, of the eight Terps that played 10 or more minutes, five were freshmen or sophomores.

“[Purdue’s] execution is so good. They’ve got their February playbook in. They’ve got a lot of plays in. It’s hard for a normal team to have that many in, and they’ve got a veteran team too,” Turgeon said. “They’re just much further along and they executed at a really high level, and they’re well-coached.”

2. Sophomore Anthony Cowan nearly brought the Terps back in improbable fashion, but senior guard Jared Nickens’ last gasp 3-pointer didn’t go.

The Xfinity Center began to empty out with just under a minute to play as Thompson walked the length of the court to make two free throws to push the Boilermakers’ lead to 76-68. But Cowan posted a four-point play seconds later thanks to being fouled on a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Thompson hit two more free throws, but Cowan came back with a 3-point play to cut the deficit to 78-75. 

Cowan then stole the ball from Carsen Edwards on the ensuing in-bounds pass, allowing Maryland to call a timeout with 29 seconds left to set up a play to try to tie or extend the game. Cowan, however, was unimpressed with his play down the stretch.

“It didn’t finish the job, so it didn’t really do too much,” Cowan quipped.

The Terps were eventually left with an in-bounds play under their own basket with 15 seconds left and down by three. Turgeon played Cowan, Huerter, Nickens and juniors, guard Dion Wiley and forward Ivan Bender on the decisive possession. Turgeon initially wanted to draw up a play for Huerter, but did so for Nickens instead. Nickens was screened open for a corner three, but the shot fell short and Purdue grabbed the rebound and made two free throws to ice it.

“I said Kevin, ‘I’m going to run it for you,’ and he’s like, ‘They’re going to know it’s coming to me, Coach. Run it for Jared.’ And Jared was 2-for-3 [from 3-point range] at the time. Jared’s hit a lot of big shots in his career for us, and got a wide open look,” Turgeon said.

Huerter, as it turned out, was correct about what the Boilermakers expected. Purdue head coach Matt Painter said his team’s focus was to deny the Huerter the ball, especially considering that they lost Huerter on last-second inbounds play last February, which nearly cost them the game. 

“We’ve gotten fortunate two years in a row,” Painter said of Nickens’ 3-point miss.

3. Freshman guard Darryl Morsell didn’t make Purdue pay for leaving him open.

Morsell did some good things Dec. 1, not the least of which was proving to be Turgeon’s answer for Mathias as the game wore on. Mathias had just two points in the second half with Morsell guarding him for much of it. However, Morsell was 3-for-16 from the field and 0-for-4 from 3-point range, a big factor in the Terps shooting 34.9 percent against Purdue. 

Morsell’s last 3-point attempt would’ve given Maryland a 63-62 lead with just under seven minutes to go, and he was visibly dejected as he ran down the court to play defense after the miss. Turgeon substituted Morsell with Wiley, a better shooter, shortly after the miss, but then quickly reverted back to Morsell.

Painter said he used whoever was guarding Morsell as a help defender inside.

“If anyone was going to get some perimeter shots, it was going to be him,” Painter said of Morsell. “And if he made a couple, then we knew we’d adjust to it. He just didn’t knock any down. We were just trying our best to try to keep the ball out of the paint.”

The Terps play Illinois Dec. 3, and the Illini will almost certainly take notice of how Purdue handled Morsell, who is 1-for-8 from 3-point range on the season.

“I think he’ll realize that pretty quickly, of how well every Big Ten team knows each other,” Huerter said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of teams that are going to force him to prove he can shoot and make shots, and we think he can. That’s just something I think just confidence-wise, he’s got to see a couple go in during games.”

4. Sophomore Justin Jackson also needs to shoot better for Maryland.

Jackson, like Morsell, also did some nice things against Purdue, as he had eight rebounds, including six on the offensive end, and had four of Maryland’s 12 assists. But he was 1-for-8 from the field and 0-for-3 from 3-point range -- another lackluster shooting performance for the 6-foot-7 Canadian this year.

Jackson has shot just 7-of-31 from long range this season. He’s also not creating his own shot effectively off the bounce, which was thought to be an area in which he’d take a step forward this year. Jackson is playing hard on defense and on the boards, but can’t get untracked with the ball in his hands.

The prevailing thought before the season was that Jackson would have a chance to become a focal point of the Terps’ offense with Melo Trimble no longer around and cement himself as a first round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. But for now, the Terps may be simply searching for the Jackson that stretched the floor by knocking down 43.8 percent of his 3-pointers last year.

“Right now with Justin, I think it’s just a confidence thing,” Huerter said. “We know he still has all the ability. It’s not like he wasn’t in the gym this summer, wasn’t doing anything and didn’t get better. It’s nothing like that. It’s just he’s got to find confidence in himself to realize he’s still an NBA-caliber player.”