Hakim Hart dribbled down the middle of the floor, out of position from his usual sprint to the corner.
The senior took a commanding position at the center of the three-point line and stopped. Without missing a beat, Julian Reese set a screen to free Hart to move in the lane, and he did so.
Hart did just enough to draw Minnesota forward Dawson Garcia out of the paint and perfectly timed a smooth bounce-pass to a rolling Reese, who slammed the ball through the twine.
The sequence took seconds and felt smoothly orchestrated from a veteran player in Hart who has steadily taken on a larger role as a distributor in Maryland’s offense. Nothing displayed that better than his six assist performance against the Golden Gophers.
Reese lauded Hart after the game, saying that he “always makes the right decision.” That’s paid off for Maryland’s men’s basketball.
Coach Kevin Willard says Hart’s increased offensive role has taken pressure off point guard Jahmir Young, and Young has played better because of it.
“[Hart’s] gotten very comfortable in the offense and very comfortable with what we’re asking him to do,” Willard said. “That’s really helped him.”
Hart has been on a scoring tear recently with 82 points and 18 assists in his last five games while remaining the most efficient three-point shooter of the team’s starters.
Part of Hart’s increased production has been his stellar chemistry with Reese, who has put up career-high scoring numbers this season. Willard said the pair’s two-man game is one of the team’s highest-percentage plays.
“[Hart’s] one of the best guys we got on ball-screen action,” Reese said. “He just makes smart plays a lot [and] doesn’t really turn the ball over.”
Hart’s essential nature resonates in win shares, a statistic that estimates the number of wins contributed by a player due to their offense and defense.
Hart is joint-fifth in the Big Ten in that statistic with 4.5 wins contributed, below players like Purdue’s Zach Edey and Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, and above players like Iowa’s Kris Murray and his teammate, Jahmir Young.
The key player proved vital in Maryland’s upset of Purdue, gathering 13 points, four rebounds and three assists. Hart nailed a pair of crucial three-pointers in the final 10 minutes during the Terps’ monster scoring run that put the Boilermakers away.
Those two makes from behind the arc are part of a four-game streak in which Hart has made two or more three-pointers, something he hadn’t done in over 16 games since making five of his six attempts against Illinois on Dec. 2, 2022.
“I like the fact that [Hart’s] shooting the basketball with confidence,” Willard said. “That's helped us to open up driving things for him and [Reese].”
The Philadelphia native has maintained career-high averages in points per game, rebounds per game and assists per game this season under Willard.
For a Maryland team on the cusp of attaining a top-four seed and a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament, every assist and bucket brings it closer.
"From now on I'm just going to stay in attack mode, that's what this team needs,” Hart said.