On Sunday night, No. 5 West Virginia met No. 4 Maryland in what promised to be an exciting game between Midwest Region competitors. Both teams were coming off of close escapes against smaller schools and looking for long-awaited returns to the Sweet 16. Could Melo Trimble, Dez Wells, and the Terps be any match for Juwan Staten, Devin Williams, and the Mountaineers' pressure defense?
The game was close for the most part, but after a first half that ended with West Virginia ahead 35-34, Maryland failed to shoot well enough to make up for the constant turnovers that were being forced by the Mountaineer defense. With only one natural point guard on the floor at a time, Maryland didn't have enough ball handlers to pass to when the going got tough. When Trimble was forced out of the game early, it became impossible for the Terps to keep pace with their opponents, and West Virginia prevailed, 69-59.
What We Learned
Maryland could have used a backup point guard
To say this game was a rough one for Trimble would be an understatement. Although he performed well enough when he was on the floor, the freshman was constantly banged up before he finally left the game for good due to a head injury with around seven minutes remaining in the second half. Throughout the game, Trimble showed no regard for his own body. He took a hard fall on a drive to the hoop, ran into a West Virginia screen, and then knocked himself out of the game when he landed awkwardly while trying to intercept a transition pass. With Trimble out of action, Mark Turgeon resorted to second round hero Varum Ram, who doesn't have much experience handling the ball at the college level.
West Virginia has a strategy that could upend Kentucky
With the way they rebound the ball and put pressure on opposing guards, the Mountaineers could be an interesting test for the undefeated Wildcats as we move to the regional semifinals this week. West Virginia forces teams to win with shooting and ball handling, and neither of those things is something that Kentucky is expert at. With tenacious players like Williams and Jonathan Holton manning the front line, the Mountaineers aren't easily going to be pushed around in the post the way Kentucky is accustomed to treating its opponents. If West Virginia can force the Wildcat guards into enough mistakes, the odds just might tilt into the underdog's favor.
Tarik Phillip is one of the toughest guard defenders in the country
The sophomore out of Brooklyn only scores four points per contest, but his contributions to this game are better measured in points taken away. He annoyed Trimble throughout the game, guarding him tightly on inbounds plays and making sure the Terps had to work hard to get the ball into his hands. It's a credit to Phillip and the rest of the Mountaineer defense that Trimble only attempted six field goals before leaving the game with seven minutes to play. If Maryland was able to put the ball into their star's hands as often as they wanted, this game could have had a different story. As it played out, Wells had to handle the ball too often and turned the ball over eight times.
Maryland as a team shot the ball better than West Virginia did, but the Terps couldn't avoid getting beat in the rebounding and turnover games. Led by Williams' double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds), the Mountaineers grabbed 14 of their own misses and forced a whopping 23 turnovers, which was just the recipe they were looking for. An underrated aspect from West Virginia was its balanced scoring. Even with Staten being limited to six points and six assists, the team managed to put four players in double figures. Maryland, on the other hand, saw just Trimble and Jake Layman score more than nine points.