Maryland mashes undermanned Rutgers, 88-63
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — As Maryland went to the line for a pair of free throws midway through the first half, Rasheed Sulaimon jogged back to the Terrapins’ bench on the opposite side of the court.
Grinning ear to ear, the graduate transfer from Duke slapped hands with Terps head coach Mark Turgeon before trotting back over to the rest of his team on the second free throw attempt.
No. 3 Maryland’s third Big Ten game of the season might as well have been a preseason exhibition with how it strut around in front of 17,950 on its home floor at Xfinity Center, handing the visiting Rutgers men’s basketball team an 88-63 drubbing Wednesday night in College Park.
“We were depleted because of injuries — undersized, but our spirit was 100 percent and our competitive nature was 100 percent,” said head coach Eddie Jordan. “We played a little bit smarter in the second half.”
Jordan, referring to his team's 45-42 finish in the second half, was right to pull from an improved finish compared to the merciless first half that swallowed Rutgers up in the opening period of the ballgame.
Trailing by a lopsided margin of 46-18 at halftime, the Scarlet Knights (6-10, 0-3) knew this one wasn’t going to be easy.
Already missing sophomore center Shaquille Doorson (foot), redshirt freshman forward Ibrahima Diallo (foot) and Deshawn Freeman (knee), Rutgers had to adjust even more against a towering rotation without freshman forward Jonathan Laurent.
As The Daily Targum first reported, Laurent did not join the team for the trip down to Maryland on Tuesday. A Rutgers official said before the game that the Orlando, Florida, native sustained a mild concussion after bumping heads with a player in last Saturday's 79-57 loss at Wisconsin.
Down to just seven scholarship players, the Knights hardly stood a chance.
The third-ranked Terps (14-1, 3-0), meanwhile, feasted on their undersized opponents. Maryland, which rotated in five players standing at 6-foot-9 and above, spread out its weapons with a game-high 18 points from Jake Layman leading the way for four Terps scoring in double figures.
Before the first half could even end, the only two big men Rutgers had were already in foul trouble. Senior center Greg Lewis and sophomore forward D.J. Foreman each picked up their third personal foul with less than five minutes before halftime.
“I was a little frustrated. I’ve gotta play smarter," Lewis said. “At that point, in the second half, I’ve just gotta go with my instincts and play hard.”
While Foreman and Lewis managed to not foul out, each eventually racked up four fouls, leaving Rutgers in a vulnerable position.
Lacking with just a pair of 6-foot-4 guards in graduate transfer Omari Grier and redshirt freshman Justin Goode as the last two players in line to play out of position and fill in down low, the Knights had to alter their approach in the midst of a blowout that sky-rocketed to 42 points at one point in the second half.
Grier, who did what he could to pace Rutgers with 13 points on 4-for-9 shooting despite having long and athletic defenders on him all night long, acknowledged the struggle of playing undermanned and out of position after the game.
“It was definitely a challenge,” Grier said. “But I just feel like if we just play as a unit, we’ll continue to be fine for most of the season. So it’s all we can do right now.”
Freshman guard Corey Sanders pitched in a team-high 16 points despite making his second straight appearance off the bench, but even his hot finish on three treys down the stretch weren't enough to come close to making it a ballgame.
The beating was evident in a pair of lopsided margins relevant to the post. Maryland outrebounded Rutgers, 49-27, and outscored the Knights in the paint, 36-22.
That, coupled with six punishing blocks from the Terps inside on Rutgers’ drives to the basket, was more than enough to exhibit how overmatched the Knights were over the course of the night.
But with a quick turnaround looming as a return home to the Rutgers Athletic Center for Saturday’s 5 p.m. tip-off against Nebraska, Jordan’s message to his depleted team at the half was clear on finishing strong.
And to the third-year coach’s estimation, as ugly as things got, the gritty effort by Rutgers to keep coming at Maryland as the game wound down was a step in the right direction for that.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see your guys coming together and huddling up and having the camaraderie that you have knowing you’re undersized,” the third-year head coach said. “I hope they understand that, what we said at halftime remains to be true — that you are going to do things in the next 20 minutes to help you win on Saturday at home against Nebraska.”