CANCUN – The Maryland men’s basketball team won the Cancun Challenge in Cancun, Mexico last week, defeating Illinois State and Rhode Island in consecutive games to win the tournament. In what seems to have become a trend for Maryland, the Terps once again trailed in the second half to an inferior team. Maryland was down […]
CANCUN – The Maryland men’s basketball team won the Cancun Challenge in Cancun, Mexico last week, defeating Illinois State and Rhode Island in consecutive games to win the tournament.
In what seems to have become a trend for Maryland, the Terps once again trailed in the second half to an inferior team. Maryland was down as many as five points (57-52) to Illinois State at the 7:26 mark before going on a 25-9 run to close the game and win, 77-66.
It wasn’t until the championship game that Maryland finally played like the No. 2 ranked team in the country and beat up on Rhode Island, 86-63. The Rams led by one point for a total of 34 seconds, while the Terps led by as many as 29 late in the second half.
“I thought we had a lot of energy tonight,” said Maryland Head Coach Mark Turgeon. “We beat a really good team that is well coached. We’re getting deeper as a team and we are doing a lot of things better. We are dialing in and heading in the right direction.”
Against Illinois State, Maryland led by just one at the half and needed back-to-back three-pointers from Jared Nickens and Rasheed Sulaimon late to pull away for the victory. Prior to those two makes, the Terps were just 2-of-18 from deep.
Sulaimon led the team in scoring with 18 points, while tournament MVP Melo Trimble added 15 points and seven assists. Damonte Dodd (13 points), Jake Layman (12 points) and Robert Carter (11 points) also scored in double figures for the locals.
“Opponents are coming after us,” Turgeon said. “We weren’t great at all times, but that’s a tough matchup and you have to give them credit. It was loud and hard to communicate, but we got it done.”
Maryland then shot as well as it had all season in the final against Rhode Island and used the great effort to win the program’s 31st holiday tournament championship.
The Terps shot an astounding 60 percent from the floor (30-of-50) and 59 percent from deep (10-of-17) en route to the 23-point victory.
Sulaimon and Trimble once again led the way with 17 points apiece, while Carter (15), Nickens (10) and Diamond Stone (10) chipped in at least ten points.
“We beat a really good team handily,” Turgeon said. “We had to accept that just because you are ranked high doesn’t mean you will win every game easily. We’re going through a process we haven’t gone through before.”
Maryland rounded out the week with another lop-sided win, this time against Cleveland State on Saturday.
Although the Terps held just a four-point lead at the break, the team out-scored the Vikings 43-30 in the second half to coast to the win.
Carter had a great game with 17 points and eight boards, while Nickens and Stone added 16 and 15 points respectively.
“I don’t force anything,” said Nickens, who is averaging just under nine points-per-game off the bench. “My teammates do a good job finding me. My teammates have that confidence in me so I always shoot it when I’m open.”
Maryland (6-0) will have a tough test Tuesday night against No. 9 North Carolina before returning home to play St. Francis (PA) Friday night at 7 p.m.