Another second-half deficit, another Maryland comeback victory. Despite trailing by five points with seven minutes to play, the Terrapins stormed back to beat Illinois State 77-66 in the semifinals of the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday night in Mexico.
Five players scored in double figures, led by Rasheed Sulaimon's 18 points. Melo Trimble had 15 to go along with seven assists. Damonte Dodd was enormous off the bench as a garbage man, cleaning up inside to have 13 points and three blocks.
Here are five things you need to know as the Terrapins advance to face Rhode Island on Wednesday in the tournament's championship game.
1) A very different start
After going down 9-0 to Georgetown and struggling vs. Rider, Maryland got out to an early 10-2 lead vs. Illinois State by being disruptive defensively and hitting shots on the other end of the floor. That gave them some confidence, but Illinois State fought back.
2) Small ball continues to cause issues
Maryland struggles against small lineups. That has been proven through the season’s first three games and persisted on Tuesday night. Missouri Valley teams often use wing players as bigs, which is difficult for traditional bigs like Damonte Dodd or Michal Cekovsky when those wings end up spreading the floor.
In the first half, all three Maryland centers had two fouls by the under-four timeout. Stone had to sit not even three minutes into the game with two fouls.
3) The turnover problem
Illinois State brought pressure in the first half and it bothered Maryland. Unable to get its offense in a rhythm, Melo Trimble had turnover issues and no secondary ball handler stepped up to take the pressure off of him.
Head coach Mark Turgeon wants to use Jaylen Brantley more, but he still does not seem comfortable in that role. Rasheed Sulaimon had no assists in the first half.
4) Lack of three-point shooting
This Maryland team is built on the foundation from three-point shooters, from Jake Layman to Jared Nickens to Melo Trimble to Rasheed Sulaimon. If there is not a legitimate threat of Maryland making the opponent pay by helping from the perimeter, the offense sputters.
At one point, Maryland was 2-of-18 from three-point range. Head coach Mark Turgeon said in an interview with CBS Sports Network’s Doug Gottlieb after the game that he told the Terrapins to keep shooting.
They did and hit three of the next four to finish the game.
5) A late deficit and a strong push back
Maryland found itself in a familiar spot, down five points with seven minutes to play. From there, they went on a 25-9 run to fight back and close the door.
Illinois State really wanted to get the ball out of Melo Trimble’s hands in the first half. They didn’t do it as much in the second half and he picked them apart.
He laid a pair of perfect passes into the pocket to Damonte Dodd for dunks. He drove and dished to Jared Nickens and Rasheed Sulaimon for a pair of threes that helped to widen the lead down the stretch.
His ability to facilitate, including making a beautiful extra pass to Layman for a final dagger three with about a minute to go, changed the complexion of this game.