Maryland men’s basketball had plenty of open looks in the opening half of Saturday’s game, but struggled to convert from deep and open up any kind of definitive lead against South Alabama.
The Terps couldn’t penetrate the Jaguars’ zone early, but finally found success on the inside early in the second half. Maryland’s bigs thrived near the basket as the Terps pulled away from the Jaguars to secure their second straight victory in a 68-55 win at Xfinity Center.
Only four Maryland players — Donta Scott, Julian Reese, Jordan Geronimo and Jahmir Young — scored in the Terps’ win. Each notched at least 14 points as the Terps leaned on their bigs after a slow start.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, I just noticed it,” Willard said. “We’re gonna rely on Julian, Donta and Jahmir a lot. … The rest of those guys are not going to get enough shot attempts at times to be huge factors offensively when those guys are getting most of the shots.”
Maryland (3-3) settled for outside shots early and didn’t convert. The Terps’ woes from three-point range all season have affected their offense throughout a slow start to the season. That didn’t change in the first half against the Jaguars (4-4).
Maryland made just one of its first nine attempts from deep and finished the first half 3-for-17 from three-point range. The Terps entered Saturday’s contest making just 22.9 percent of their three-point attempts, the 351st-worst mark of all 362 Division I teams in the country and the lowest percentage of any power-conference team.
The Terps shot even worse from deep in the second half, making only two of 14 attempts to fall to a 21.4 percent clip this season.
“Our three point shooting is obviously a struggle right now, and we’re kind of compounding it a little bit by getting down on ourselves,” Willard said. “You can see them after they miss shots they’re getting a little down.”
Scott was the only player to consistently convert near the basket in the opening half. The fifth-year senior made a mid-range jumper and converted a layup during an 8-0 Maryland run that gave the Terps their first lead of the game in the later stages of the first half.
Scott’s 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the field in the opening frame helped the Terps hold a 29-26 advantage at the break. He added a pair of three-pointers in the second half and finished with 19 points, setting his season-high for the second consecutive game.
Maryland’s bigs sparked a 23-4 run at the beginning of the second half that helped it pull away from South Alabama. A Geronimo fastbreak dunk and a pair of tough and-one layups by Reese kickstarted a laboring Maryland offense and gave the Terps a 22-point lead with about 13 minutes to go.
“We did a much better job of getting the ball side-to-side quickly in the second half and getting the ball inside,” Willard said. “I thought in the first half we didn’t shift the zone at all, the ball kind of stuck a lot.”
Reese finished with his third double-double of the season with 19 points and 15 rebounds, both season-highs.
Geronimo added a season-high 14 points in his most influential outing with the Terps. The duo provided a foundation for a floundering Maryland offense to rely on in the second half and helped the Terps prevail in their first-ever meeting with the Jaguars.
“Coach drew up some nice stuff for us to get the ball inside,” Geronimo said. “… Being able to set screens and being able to find our teammates in open spaces, I feel like that kind of just helped us out.”