Halftime was still a while away Sunday afternoon when Roddy Peters and Charles Mitchell sat below the Comcast Center scorer’s table and shared a hearty laugh. Everything went swimmingly for the Maryland men’s basketball team during its 84-39 exhibition pasting of Catholic University, so why not start smiling? With the opener five days away and a new season with greater expectations dawning in College Park, the Terrapins encountered few roadblocks and took care of business.
The Sunday matinee was little more than a tuneup for Maryland’s big show against 18th-ranked Connecticut on Friday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The Terps worked out Dez Wells at point guard, replacing injured sophomore Seth Allen (broken foot). They turned blocked shots into tomahawk dunks, salves for an early bout of giveaways.
Later, sophomore swingman Jake Layman revealed Coach Mark Turgeon handcuffed his team by allowing it to run only three offensive plays. Yet Maryland still won by 45. It was that kind of game.
“We did a lot of things well,” Turgeon said later — but not before asking the score of the Kansas City Chiefs game. “I was proud of our group. It should help us moving forward.”
After trading early blows, the outsized Division III Cardinals, rotating just one player taller than 6 feet 6, were hammered harder and harder as Maryland began to coast. Layman, inarguably the team’s most impressive player this preseason, hit three straight three-pointers from different spots around the wing that gave the Terps enough cushion. He scored a game-high 23 points, three more than his career high in a regular season game.
“We kind of saw that same thing last year,” Layman said. “That first game’s always tough for the new players, then us too coming in, to get the flow of the game. Once we settled down, everything was fine for us.”
Three other Maryland players reached double figures, and every player in the rotation scored. Mitchell was his usual energetic self off the bench. Slimmed down after an offseason of treadmill work, the sophomore forward contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds. Transfer Evan Smotrycz, ineligible last season after moving from Michigan, added 11 points, while junior Nick Faust, the longest-tenured regular on this sleek, young roster, had 14.
“Regardless of what lineup we put on the court, our guys are going to be able to score the ball,” Wells said.
Crosshairs fixed on the program’s first NCAA tournament bid since 2010, Maryland will glean little from a preseason opponent of this caliber. The Terps blocked 10 shots, shot 52.8 percent from the field and grabbed nearly as many offensive rebounds (17) as Catholic had rebounds in total (22). Small highlights emerged, like freshman Damonte Dodd’s hyper-efficient 11 minutes or Peters’s seven points. But after the Terps review film of the rout, their attention immediately will turn to Connecticut.
“Friday’s coming soon,” Layman said. “We’re pumped up.”