Maryland captures elusive road win by taking down Northwestern 71-64

It was not pretty and the second half certainly wasn’t clean, but in the end the Maryland Terrapins pulled out their second road win of the season by taking down Northwestern 71-64.

With these two teams meeting just nine days ago, there was some familiarity when they stepped on the court Monday night. The Wildcats were coming off of a devastating loss to Michigan State in which they lead the Spartans by 27 but still managed to lose 65-60. Maryland, on the other hand, has enjoyed a decent amount of success in recent games while winning three of their last five.

The Terrapins shot over 50% from the field in Monday’s win over Northwestern but got a great deal of offensive production from some players who usually remain quiet. Michael Cekovsky has not started much since returning from injury but still provides the team with a nice boost off of the bench.

It’s not often that Maryland has an advantage under the basket but Cekovsky didn’t waste anytime using that to his benefit when he came off the bench in the first half. The 7-foot-6-inch senior dominated the rim with three dunks and four rebounds in the first half.

Dion Wiley also came through with one of his more flashy performances of the year. Mark Turgeon has given Wiley an opportunity to start a lot of games over the past few weeks but he has stuck to his role as a facilitator for the most part. On Monday, the junior from Oxon Hill dropped 13 while adding three rebounds and a pair of steals.

Kevin Huerter would finish with 18 points and four assists to lead the Maryland offense. He was also responsible for three of the Terrapins five three pointers in the game. It was interesting to see Maryland shy away from the deep shots especially in the first half when the Wildcats were flourishing from beyond the arc. Chris Collins’ team shot 15 three pointers in the first half and managed to sink eight of them to take a 37-30 lead at the break.

However, that previously mentioned height difference between each teams big men helped the Terps keep pace with Northwestern early and eventually pull away. I am also a little surprised with just how fast the Terps played at points, especially in the second half. With the regular season coming to a close, I would have guessed that most of the team would be drained from playing extended minutes all year. Instead, Maryland did a lot of their scoring in transition and appeared to fluster the Wildcats down the stretch.

Maryland’s 41 point second half was fun to watch mainly because of their consistency. There were no scoring droughts as the Terps spent the full 20 minuets battling to either get even or hold on to a slim lead. Just like their game against Rutgers on Saturday, Maryland did a good job of closing the game out with a lead as well. Northwestern started intentionally fouling a little earlier than expected and the Terrapins took advantage by going 6-6 from the line to put the game on ice.

This second road win has been a long time coming for the Terps. There have been a lot of close calls since they took down Illinois in overtime earlier this season but they could never quiet get it done. I was happy to see Maryland thrive away from home but I can’t help but think about Northwestern’s arena situation.

The Wildcats have been relocated to the Allstate Arena this season while their normal home gets renovated. This has resulted in a lack of home court advantage for Northwestern. Just look at this picture of their student section from tonight’s game. None the less, the Terps found a win outside of the Xfinity Center and that all that matters.

Maryland will honor their senior players this Saturday as Michigan makes a trip to College Park. Big wins have eluded the Terps all season but they will get one more crack at it as the Wolverines are currently sitting at No. 17 in the AP rankings.

Image credit: Jim Young / AP

Advertisements

Chris Tillman back with Orioles on $3 million deal

SARASOTA, FLA — One week after pitchers and catchers reported to Sarasota for camp, the Baltimore Orioles have twice the amount of pitchers in their starting rotation than they did seven days ago.

Late Monday morning, MLB Network Insider John Heyman reported via Twitter that the Orioles reached an agreement with 2013 All-Star pitcher Chris Tillman. The 29-year-old right-hander reunites with his longtime ballclub on a one-year, $3 million contract. With incentives, Tillman could earn up to $7 million this season, but that $3 million figure is fully guaranteed.

The news comes four days after Baltimore inked a two-year, $16 million contract with veteran Andrew Cashner, who is already throwing at Orioles camp. Along with Cashner, Tillman projects to join a rotation with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Tillman has been with the Orioles since the infamous 2008 Erik Bedard trade that sent both Tillman and Adam Jones to Baltimore, along with three other players. From 2012-2014, Tillman went 38-16 with the Orioles, and made an All-Star appearance in 2013. Tillman ended the 2013 season with a 16-7 record, a 3.71 ERA, a career-high 179 strikeouts, and a 1.22 whip in 33 starts (206.1 innings).

In the second half of the 2016 season, Tillman began to experience discomfort in his right throwing shoulder, which turned into right shoulder bursitis. After a 15-day stint on the disabled list, Tillman returned for a handful of starts to end the 2016 season without any noticeable problems. However, Tillman’s shoulder issues continued during last year’s spring training, and he did not make his first start until May 7. Tillman made it through the 2017 season without landing back on the disabled list, but he had by far the worst season of his career. Tillman came out of 2017 with a 1-7 record and a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts (93 innings). His strikeouts fell from 140 to 63, and he gave up 24 home runs in 24 appearances, opposed to allowing 19 home runs in 30 appearances during the 2016 season.

The current status of Tillman’s shoulder is unknown, but Orioles fans will find out what shape Tillman is in when he undergoes the ever-so-daunting Orioles physical. Shoulder problems have prevented previous free agent pitchers from officially signing contracts with the Orioles (Grant Balfour), so it’s still very possible for the Orioles to get cold feet before Tillman officially signs his contract.

If Tillman is healthy, he could certainly play a key role on the 2018 Orioles. Starting pitching was clearly the biggest need entering camp for Baltimore, and a week into spring training they’ve doubled the depth they previously had in the rotation. It’s hard to fathom why the Orioles would bring Tillman back if his shoulder is still bothering him, so hopefully this agreement is a sign that the health of his shoulder is much better than what it was in 2017.

Even though adding two veteran pitchers is a boost, the Orioles still have work to do in the starting pitching department. General manager Dan Duquette has said multiple times that he would like a lefty in his rotation this season. None of the four starting pitchers Baltimore has are southpaws. Neither are in-house fifth-spot candidates like Miguel Castro or Gabriel Ynoa, or any of the top free agent names still on the market, like Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, or Alex Cobb.

Image Credit: Boston Herald

Fernando feasts on Scarlet Knights, helps Terps hold on for 61-51 win

Last Saturday Maryland pulled out their gold uniforms for their matchup against Northwestern. The result was a dominate 73-57 win, so why not do the same this week? The Terps decided to don the Gold once again and the result was another win. This time Maryland took down a basement dwelling Rutgers team 61-51.

Bruno Fernando was the clear leader for the Terps in this one, finishing with 18 points and a career high 16 rebounds. The freshman even scored the first three pointer of his career on a wide open look in the second half.

After their victory over Northwestern last week I said that this Maryland team has looked different as of late. Not only do I think that stands after this one, but I think it’s clear that the team has made major adjustments down the stretch. Unfortunately, these changes are coming a little too late as the Terps will have to win out just to get to .500 in the conference.

The Terps have found success in recent games by spreading the ball around and trusting each other on offense. We all know that the team is shorthanded because of injuries but you have no choice but to trust the guys you have at this point because you can’t win with the same two players shooting the ball 17-20 times a game.

This trust has resulted in a well-balanced offensive attack that features consistent scoring from all five starters and a couple of bench players, depending on the game. This was on full display right at the beginning of the game when the Terps took a 10-0 lead. Maryland took just four minutes to jump out to this lead and their first five baskets were scored by a five different players.

Anthony Cowan also had a standout night and really got a chance to run the Terps offense while taking a backseat when it came to shooting. The sophomore still put up 14 points but only shot the ball ten times. Instead, Cowan was able to help the Terps with six assists and five steals.

As the first half progressed the Terps continued to pass the ball well but more importantly, they protected the ball. Maryland went 11 minutes without a turnover and finished the first half with just two. Rutgers, on the other hand, coughed up the ball seven times. All of this was a recipe for a 31-19 Maryland lead at the half.

For a majority of the second half it looked like the Terps were going to run the Scarlet Knights off the court. Maryland started the second half with another 10-0 run and even had a 24 point lead at one point. However, with the clock approaching five minutes to play, Rutgers didn’t roll over and made things interesting with a 10-0 run of their own to cut the deficit to just nine.

In the end Maryland would close out the game like any good team does. They held the ball and trusted themselves to make the necessary baskets even with a dwindling shot clock. Rutgers maintained a high level of energy through the final minuets but the comeback was shutdown once Maryland got to the free throw line.

The Terps will have a quick turnaround as they prepare to play Northwestern again on Monday night. The Wildcats are coming off of one of the worst second half performances in Big Ten history. Playing without Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern scored just 11 points in the second half, allowing the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans to erase a 27 point defect and win the game 65-60.

The Terps handled their business when they hosted Northwestern last weekend but we all know how bad they are away from home. You can only hope that this devastating loss rattles the Wildcats and impacts them on a short turnaround.

Image credit: Nick Wass / Associated Press

Orioles sign starting pitcher Andrew Cashner

SARASOTA, FLA — On Thursday afternoon, the Baltimore Orioles finally made a move that bolsters their 2018 starting rotation by signing starting pitcher Andrew Cashner to a two-year contract worth $16 million in guaranteed money.

Along with $16 million officially signed to Cashner over two years, a $10 million vesting option for 2020 is included. The deal also includes $5 million in incentives for each season.

Cashner, 31, has eight years of experience pitching at the Major League level. He spent two seasons with the Chicago Cubs, over four seasons with the San Diego Padres before being traded to the Miami Marlins, and most recently a season with the Texas Rangers. In 2017, Cashner made 28 starts, finishing with an 11-11 record, a 3.40 ERA, and a 1.32 WHIP. That ERA is his lowest mark since the 2014 season, where he finished with a 2.55 ERA in 19 starts.

Cashner is a career 3.80 ERA pitcher at the Major League level. Although he finished the 2017 season with his lowest ERA figure in four seasons, his strikeout rate fell drastically, according to WNST‘s Luke Jones.

Cashner also battled biceps tendinitus during spring training last year, and he spent a stint on the 10-day disabled list midway through the season with a left oblique strain. As Jones mentioned, the peripherals surrounding Cashner do raise some concern, much like Yovani Gallardo’s did when the O’s signed in before the 2016 season. However, the Orioles came into spring training this week with just two starting pitchers in their rotation in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. Even though general manager Dan Duquette moved slow to bring a veteran pitcher in (as he always does), he alluded to the market moving slow all offseason. That proved to be true, and the Orioles have now added a piece to their rotation with over veteran names (Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, Chris Tillman, Alex Cobb, etc) still on the market.

Although this move will ease some of the concern about Baltimore’s rotation, there are still two slots in that rotation to fill. Duquette mentioned both at FanFest and to reporters earlier this week that Baltimore could sign multiple names in the free agent pool. There is still work to be done, but signing Cashner is a step in the right direction.

Let’s all note that even though Cashner and the Orioles agreed on a contract, he still has to pass the daunting Orioles physical.

Image Credit: Nolan Writin

 

Ravens to play Bears in 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Game

On Tuesday morning, the NFL announced that the Baltimore Ravens will participate in the 2018 Hall of Fame Game on Thursday, Aug. 2 from Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium from Canton, Ohio.

The Ravens will play against the Chicago Bears, two days before legendary linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Every year, the Hall of Fame Game kicks off the NFL’s preseason slate. This marks the Ravens’ first appearance in the Hall of Fame Game. The Bears have made four appearances, the most recent being in 2005 against the Miami Dolphins.

Along with competing in the Hall of Fame Game, the Ravens and Bears will still play four normally-scheduled preseason season games along with the rest of the NFL. With that said, should we see any starters play in this game, it won’t be for long.

Ticket packages for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement week are already on sale at hofexperiences.com, or by calling 844-751-0532. Individual tickets for the Hall of Fame Game and Enshrinement Ceremony go on sale on Friday, Feb. 16 at 10 a.m. ET at profootballhof.com/tickets.

Image Credit: Dawgs by Nature

Terps are good as gold in 73-57 win over Northwestern

Coming off of a 74-70 loss to Penn State, the Maryland Terrapins needed a good performance to jump-start the final stretch of their season. With the Northwestern Wildcats in town on Saturday, the Terps were able to put together one of their best all around games in conference play for a convincing 73-57 win.

Kevin Huerter led the way with 22 points but there was no shortage of offensive production for Maryland. In Wednesday’s loss against the Nittany Lions, Maryland played great on offense but didn’t find an answer for Penn State’s shooters. Saturday’s win over Northwestern felt like the natural progression from Wednesday as the Terps added a great defensive performance to accompany the scoring.

Three other Maryland starters finished with double-digit scoring numbers. Darryl Morsell continues to stand out among that group. I saw him grind out some tough baskets against Penn State and he continued to play very well against the Wildcats with 14 points while going 7-10 from the field. As a freshman playing more minutes than he expected, Morsell continues to improve every time he steps on the court. Even though Huerter and Anthony Cowan scored more points, Morsell was the anchor for the Terps with three assists and nine rebounds.

Maryland finished the game shooting just under 53% from the field. Right from the opening tip the Terps looked primed for a great offensive afternoon. Huerter scored 12 of his 22 points in the first five minutes while going 3-3 from beyond the arc and the team continued to shoot over 50% for a majority of the game.

As I said earlier, Maryland was also very locked in on defense. The Wildcats struggled to get open looks all afternoon and only remained in the game thanks to some decent three-point shooting. The Terps racked up seven blocks and forced 13 turnovers to fluster the Wildcats. Northwestern would finish the game shooting 33% with just seven assists as a team.

I think one of the biggest defensive accomplishments for Maryland was keeping Bryant McIntosh under control. The Wildcats senior point guard has given the Terps a lot of trouble in the past but couldn’t even get on the board in Saturdays contest. McIntosh went 0-5 with just one assist and three turnovers.

After watching these past two games, it’s clear that Maryland’s success moving forward will depend on the their ability to share the ball. The team’s top scorers are playing close to a full 40 mins every three to four days and simply can’t be relied on to shoot the ball over 15 times a game. With guys like Morsell, Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens putting together good offensive performances, the pressure can come off of Cowan and Huerter. The Terps offense has definitely been running a lot smoother recently with 30 of their last 52 baskets coming via an assist.

Up next for the Terps is a trip to Lincoln Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is currently on the fringe of qualifying for a trip to the NCAA tournament so they cannot afford to drop one at home. Maryland has also struggled on the road this season, winning just one game away from home in Big Ten play.

Image credit: Nick Wass / AP

Podcast: Nolan and Jake react to Super Bowl 52, latest Ravens news, and latest Terps loss

Welcome to the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On today’s show, Nolan McGraw and Jake McDonnell break down a number of topics, including:

  1. Superbowl 52: Well-deserved for Philadelphia, the empire crumbles, and discussion on the strange McDaniels / Colts saga
  2. Reaction to last Friday’s ‘State of the Ravens’ press conference with Mr. Bisciotti (including the Ozzie Newsome / Eric DeCosta transition), and Ray Lewis’s election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018
  3. The Terps’ tough 74-70 loss to Penn State on Wednesday night

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Thanks for listening!