COLLEGE PARK -- The day before every game, the media gathers on the XFINITY Center court in College Park prior to Maryland's practice and waits for head coach Mark Turgeon or players to be made available for comment.
And every day before every game, it seems, redshirt junior forward Robert Carter, Jr. is out on the court early and getting passes fed to him from underneath the rim as he takes jumper after jumper after jumper from five different spots around the three-point line.
With no one in the seats, the stroke is pure. With a sellout crowd of 17,950 on hand Saturday against Purdue, it was the same.
Carter was 4-of-6 from three-point range (on an afternoon when his teammates were 0-of-12 from deep) on his way to 19 critical points in a 72-61 Maryland victory over No. 18 Purdue.
He was an integral part of the offense out of the gate, hitting two early threes to set the tone and make clear that Maryland was going to exploit its advantage in the pick-and-roll game. But no shot was bigger than his three with 5:40 to play in the second half.
Trailing by four points, which against an elite defensive team like Purdue must have felt more like double that, Carter handed the ball off to guard Melo Trimble on the right wing and set a screen in the process. He then faded to the corner. Both defenders followed Trimble as he dribbled into the lane. The sophomore found the open Carter with a pass. He stepped up and drained the shot.
That cut the deficit to just one point and sparked a 16-2 run that closed out the Boilermakers on Saturday.
“They took their poison. They chose it. They both stayed with him, they left me open for the three, I knocked it down,” Carter said after the game. “You just have to pick your poison, you have to give something up and that’s what they gave up and I took my time and knocked down the shot.”
Maryland exploited that set all night with both Carter and Diamond Stone as pick-and-roll dance partners with Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon.
With it being so difficult to navigate among the big bodies, it is best to make those big bodies move. At that point, like Carter said, the defense has to make a choice.
Trimble is the best pick-and-roll point guard in the country. Go under a screen and he’ll knock down the shot. Go over it and he’ll drive past you. Switch and you would fear for any big man’s ankles with the way Trimble changes speeds.
Or you can double Trimble and leave a shooter open. That is what Purdue did on that play late.
“[Carter's] versatility is tough because he can put the ball on the floor and make a shot and also kind of dribble down into a post move and then knock down the threes like he did to start the game,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said.
“That one in the second half was the biggest one for him.”