By Chris Knoche
So if you’re the coach of a struggling low-mid major team like the South Carolina State Bulldogs and you’re playing a non-conference game at Comcast Center against a Maryland Terrapin team that had won seven consecutive games, you have to come in with a plan in order to have a successful afternoon.
First, get the guarantee check before the game tips.
Second, you probably want to limit the number of possessions in the game (the more possessions, the more likely it is that talent will kick your a--). That means holding the ball for a good shot and probably packing in a zone defense to make the Terps take their time and to force Maryland to take more three pointers than they would normally shoot.
The Bulldogs did a lot of what they set out to do and deserve credit for implementing a solid game plan. Even with that, they found themselves down by twenty points in the middle of the second half to a Maryland team that completely stifled them defensively. At that point you have to come out and play a little bit, right? I mean, seriously, you have to can the Boston Celtics three man weave you’ve been running for thirty minutes and go out and play a little bit, right?
It didn’t happen. Credit revoked.
The Bulldogs went about the last ten minutes as they had the first thirty and ended up on the short end of a 61-46 verdict. The 12,000 plus in attendance were “treated” to more three man weave and more zone down the stretch and the fifteen point margin at the end might as well have been thirty because this one was never close.
I hope the fruits of the moral victory tasted sweet on that South Carolina State bus.
On to the game:
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon again decided to start a mixed bag of players to offer up extended minutes to those who had not played much of late. Freshman Charles Mitchell and senior Logan Aaronhalt joined usual starters Nick Faust, Alex Len and Pe’Shon Howard in the starting lineup – the second straight game that Turgeon has gone with a somewhat unconventional starting five.
Mitchell has been an absolute rock in the first eight games of his Maryland career but struggled from the jump ball in this game. On the first Maryland possession a no-look pass from Howard for an easy layup clanged off his hands out of bounds and things didn’t get much better for him from that point. He played only eight minutes and had two points, two turnovers and two rebounds. I have no doubt he’ll be back in a big way.
Speaking of turnovers, given the relative youth of the team a really positive number of turnovers for this team might be in the area of 10-12 in any given game and the Terps split the difference with 11 (8 of them from freshmen). Their primary ball-handlers – Howard and freshman Seth Allen- combined for 9 assists and 3 turnovers.
Howard also nailed two three pointers – a good sign for him given his reluctance to shoot over the past couple of weeks. Allen may very well be the point guard of the future but Howard is the point guard of the now. His teammates seem to love him and his skill for distribution. If he’s hitting the occasional three pointers, his team will be much better for it.
Games like this might very well offer up an object lesson to a young team like the Terps. They shot 5-22 from the three point line yet their most dominant players – centers Len and Shaquille Cleare- combined to shoot a far more effective 7-11 from the field and 7-10 from the free throw line. I’m all for democracy on the court and the sharing of opportunities but sometimes it feels as if some of the Terps have lost sight of the fact that they have the two most dominant players on the court on their side. Mitchell’s struggles forced Turgeon to look at the two centers playing together for several minutes and the result was compelling enough that you’ll probably see it again soon.
The Terps are back in action on Wednesday night at home against Monmouth.