St. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — Evan Smotrycz led all scorers and tied a career-high 20 points to help lift Maryland 80-66 over UNI Sunday night to earn a berth in the finals of the Paradise Jam basketball tournament.
Smotrycz grabbed 9 rebounds and scored three 3-pointers in leading Maryland (3-2) in a second-half surge over UNI (2-3). Maryland will face either Providence or LaSalle in Monday’s final.
Dez Wells scored 10 points in the first period, including a layup that gave Maryland a 33-30 halftime lead, and Smotrycz scored 17 points in the second period. Jake Layman scored 19 points, including a dunk to cap the game as time ran out.
It was a physical game, just as Maryland coach Mark Turgeon expected.
“It’s very physical,” Turgeon said at halftime. “It’s a great college basketball game.”
The lead changed hands eight times in the first period and neither team led by more than four points. UNI shot 36.7 percent from the field on 11-of-30 shooting in the period while Maryland shot 46.7 percent on 14-of-30 shooting.
The Terrapins tried, but weren’t able to sink a 3-pointer until the second half, which was fine with Turgeon.
“We want to beat them with twos not threes,” he said.
But the 3-pointers were needed.
Maryland jumped to a 44-35 lead in the second half and at one point led by 11, pulling away on aggressive play and 3-pointers by Nick Faust, Layman and Smotrycz.
But Maryland couldn’t deliver a knockout blow as UNI stayed close.
UNI’s Deon Mitchell took advantage of defensive mix-up and scored an easy layup in an open lane, capping a 7-point run and making it a 5-point game.
Smotrycz squelched the run with a layup, then Wells added a layup to make it 61-52. UNI drew to within five again on free throws by Deon Mitchell, but Layman replied with two of his own to make it 69-61 and the Terrapins cruised down the stretch.
Faust finished with 17 points for Maryland and Wells had 16.
Seth Tuttle led the Panthers with 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Mitchell had 13 points, Nate Buss added 11 and Chip Rank scored 10 and grabbed 9 rebounds.