COLLEGE PARK -- It looked like Maryland’s dominating win over Rhode Island in Cancun might serve as a turning point, putting the Terrapins’ tendency to let mid-major teams hang around in the past.
They still need to work to fully kick the habit, but Maryland seemed to have control for nearly the entirety of its 80-63 victory over Cleveland State on Saturday night in front of 17,282 at XFINITY Center in College Park.
Forward Robert Carter, Jr. led the away for Maryland with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting while adding eight rebounds. Sophomore Jared Nickens added a boost from three-point range with 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep.
Here are five things to know.
1) Letting a mid-major hang around, again
This has been Maryland’s problem all season and it happened again on Saturday night. It always seems to be a combination of small teams and those teams hitting shots on a given nights -- even the ones that are reasonably contested.
Take this, for instance: Cleveland State came into Saturday’s game ranked 337th out of 351 teams in offensive efficiency this season, creating just 0.819 points per possession. Somehow, it was a four-point game at the half. Probably because...
2) Perimeter defense lacking early
Twenty-two of Cleveland State’s 33 points in the first half came in the paint. For a team with this much length defensively and the versatility to throw out different lineups, Maryland should be able to prevent that.
Too many Vikings in the lane means too many layups for a team that came into the game shooting 25 percent from three-point range. Cut off that driving lane and take your chances with them shooting from the outside because the numbers say they won’t burn you.
3) Robert Carter, Jr. is an #allday option
Maryland is starting to realize -- and they will only learn further -- that any time they need a bucket, Robert Carter, Jr. will be their guy in any variety of ways. He can take an Iso look in the post. He can work off a pick-and-roll. He can face up. He can even step out and hit a three.
After a monster game in Cancun against Rhode Island, Carter carried Maryland early with 10 first-half points on 3-of-5 shooting while adding five rebounds.
4) A change coming out of the break
It’s obvious that Maryland saw the issue they faced at halftime and made an adjustment. They started hedging hard on ball screens and using a mix of soft and hard ¾-court pressure. That got the Vikings uncomfortable and less in-tune on the offensive end.
The result was an 11-2 run to start the second half to balloon Maryland’s lead to 13 points.
5) Three-pointers help to seal it
It was clear from the start that Maryland wanted to work the ball inside against a smaller Cleveland State team. The thing about the Terrapins is that they can flip the switch whenever they want and typically start hitting from deep.
In the second half, that’s what they did. After the Vikings cut the deficit to nine points, 54-45, with just over 12 minutes to play, Maryland used a 10-4 run that was fueled by threes from Jake Layman and Jared Nickens to push the lead to 15 over a five-minute span.