By Chris Knoche
Given that it was just another exhibition game in early November it probably shouldn't have seemed to mean so much but the Maryland Terrapins 89-84 over the Northwood Seahawks was rife with so many subplots and intrigue it sure felt like something more significant than an exhibition was in the air.
You had first year Head Coach Mark Turgeon putting his stamp on a young and inexperienced group that has been universally panned before they've even played a game.
Then there was a host of newcomers for the home team and a few who might as well be classified as the same. The Terps returned a total of less than 30 points per game from a team that averaged 76 ppg. Their one proven commodity was mercurial sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin but beyond that he would be accompanied pretty much by the untried and unproven.
Add in the fact that they would be playing against a team coached by legendary Head Coach Rollie Massimino that won more than 30 games last year and is an odds-on favorite to be a DII National Champion by year's end.
Here's the "Cliff Notes" version:
After burning off some initial nervous energy early in the game, Maryland used some stout defense, a huge rebounding edge and very good play from wings Sean Mosley and freshman Nick Faust to forge a 44-31 halftime lead. Faust was particularly impressive. He hit the last two shots of the half, including a 60 foot heave at the buzzer that swished through and accounted for the margin at the break.
Perhaps more importantly for Turgeon, Faust was particularly impressive on the defensive end against Northwood star Jonathon Dunn (24 ppg. last year), holding him to 5 points in the first half on 2-9 shooting.
Then the second half got goofy.
In between the 300 whistles by the officials, the Terps started the second half in impressive fashion and had built a 19 point lead with just over 12 minutes remaining and then they stopped playing.
Some of it could probably be attributed to the loss of Faust. After playing the first few possessions of the second half, the freshman was sidelined by recurring cramps in his left calf and never really returned. In his absence Northwood effectively victimized his defensive replacements and made a game of it, going on a 18-5 run over the next few minutes to pare the lead and make it a possession game.
Eventually the Terps - and particularly Stoglin and Mosley - would make enough plays down the stretch for the Terps to put the game away.
The Terps were led in victory by Stoglin's 23 points and Mosley's 20. They were joined by the other three starters- Faust, Ashton Pankey and James Padgett- in double figures.
But you can get the play by play elsewhere....here's what I saw:
On the good news side of things: I would never have suspected that this group could score 89 points in a game. They also accomplished that with Stoglin missing his first five shots and appearing to be completely out of rythm in the first half. The game also appeared to be a return to form for Sean Mosley after a painful campaign last season. A terrific kid with the heart of a lion, Mosley started well and was solid throughout.
Perhaps the best news....Faust looks like he could be a monster on the wing. He drives, he shoots, he scores, he defends, he rebounds. What else is there? Oh yeah, he gets hurt. I have no clue as to wheher the cramps are a dietary issue or due to the fact that the kid appears to have about 3 body fat but it needs to be addressed and addressed soon.
On the interior Pankey was quietly efficient. Padgett was sold for the first thirty minutes or so before his hands betrayed him. Senior Berendt Weiss was good enough for a period of time and then struggled.
Much-hyped 7'2" Ukrainian Alex Len was fascinating to watch. He runs like a deer, has soft hands and seems to have a feel for the game. He also appeared to play with "short arms" and neverr really went after the ball the way the Maryland coaching staff would prefer. I'll attribute that to a complete lack of participation in practice due this well-publicisized NCAA issues. He had fully two practices before competing against Northwood.
The bad news: Turnovers and sloppy play. Had they simply cut down on turnovers a little bit they would have dropped 100 on a very good team. Stoglin and Mosley had 10 between them. Too many. Some of the turnovers can be explained by this being a young team trying to get to know each other. Some of them can't.
Also on the bad news side...too many missed opportunities at the foul line. For the game they shot 19-32, just over 59. Yet they had several oppoprtunities to slam the door shut on Northwood down the stretch and did not get it done. The biggest culprits were Stoglin (5-9 for the game) and sophomore wing Mychal Parker (2-6).
Parker played a lot fo minutes in the second half in relief of Faust. As comfortable as he appeared at times on the offensive end, he was a defensive liability for a good portion of the half. While Faust had held Dunn largely in check, the Seahawk wing dominated the second half with 29 points after the break. Parker looked more comfortable as the game went on. That said, his commitment on the defensive side of things has to get better. Fast.
Back to the good news...you have to like watching Turgeon work his guys. He plays no favorites - witness a quick hook on Stoglin in both halves when the offense was stagnant. While he only has eight scholarship players he rotated everyone and seemed to have fresh troops on the floor at all times. His job will get harder in the coming weeks with Len sitting through a ten game punishment from the NCAA but he clearly has buy-in from his players.
OK...just a reminder. This is a process. The season begins in earnest on the 13th against UNC-Wilmington.