Young Terps score much needed win

Young Terps score much needed win
January 23, 2013, 2:00 am
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Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon has been quick to promise his team (and, by extension, his fan base) that he will “figure things out” and get his team to where they want to be by season’s end. Specifically, figuring things out applies to finding the kind of offensive combinations that will allow his team to score more and turn the ball over less.

Well it wasn’t exactly “showtime” but Turgeon pressed enough buttons and his team hit enough shots and the Terps were able to come up with a 64-59 win at home against Boston College. The win evened their conference record and 3-3 and they improved to 15-4 overall.

So what changed?

Well, to begin with, Turgeon appears to have decided that one of the most critical needs of his team is to keep a shooter – either Logan Aaronhalt or Jake Layman- on the floor at all times. That single shooter will allow the Terps a sniper to keep defenses honest and limit double teams of Alex Len in the paint. Further, it opens up driving lanes for slashers like Nick Faust and Dez Wells.

Following that line of thought, Layman got a starting nod against BC and he did not disappoint. He scored 15 points on just 9 field goal attempts and, more importantly, his team did not lose any edge defensively with him on the floor. Aaronhalt had some good minutes as well and both he and Layman hit big three pointers in a crucial 12-1 second half Maryland run that turned a three point deficit into an eight point lead with eight minutes remaining.

For the most part each of those players has established themselves as dependable shooters this season. What was actually far more compelling was what Turgeon ended up doing at the point guard position.

Maryland has used three different point guards this season – Pe’Shon Howard, Seth Allen and the point du jour, Faust. Faust got the start in this game but struggled handling the ball against BC double teams for much of the night. Eventually he made three huge plays down the stretch to help secure the win but they came with him playing a position other than point. Howard logged 20 minutes but was used almost solely for defensive purposes down the stretch of the game.

So who managed the point and changed the direction of the game for Maryland in doing so? Somewhat surprisingly, it would be the sophomore Wells who took this game on his shoulders for the home team.

There have been times this season where the talent Wells possesses border on mind-boggling. In important road games at Northwestern and North Carolina he was, simply put, the best player on the floor. Yet there are plenty of times where he allows himself to coast through possessions and games and he disappears a bit as a result. Tonight he was both of those guys.

In the first half he was never in synch on either end of the floor and his stat line reflected it – 3 points, 1 assist and 3 turnovers.

In the second half he picked up a third foul early and was forced to sit and watch from the bench for a few minutes. The Wells that re-entered was the best player on the floor the remainder of the game.

After Turgeon called a timeout with just over 11 minutes remaining and his team down 43-40, he put the ball in Wells’ hands to change the direction of the game.

Here’s how the stat line reads over the next 2:30 during that 12-1 run referenced above:

10:59 Good! 3 PTR by Logan Aaronhalt
Assist by Dez Wells

9:49 Good! Layup by Shaquille Cleare
Assist by Dez Wells

9:10 Good! 3 PTR by Jake Layman
Assist by Dez Wells

8:46 Good! Layup by Nick Faust

8:13 Good! Dunk by Alex Len
Assist by Dez Wells

Are you sensing a theme here? All told Wells handed out seven second half assists and proved to be a complete matchup nightmare for BC guards trying to limit his penetration.

The emergence of Wells with the ball in his hands should also pay dividends for Len. Against BC he tallied 16 points and 13 rebounds, all the while being hacked by defenders every time the ball came his way. Eventually teams will have to make a choice. Do you try and double team Wells with the ball in his hands? That leaves shooters open in the corners. Do you play Wells straight up and try and keep the shooters covered in the corners? That means that Len will not be doubled in the post. In any of those cases it means the Terps will be dictating terms to teams that they play and not the other way around.

And that’s a good place to be.