Len, Allen power Terps past LIU

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Len, Allen power Terps past LIU

One of the most important jobs any Division One coaching staff has is in putting its schedule together. The process is a lot more art than science and entails projecting what kind of team you expect to have in a distant two or three years.

My guess is that Mark Turgeon could never have imagined the dramatic improvement in his program over the course of a single year when he and his staff put this year’s schedule together. If they had, then we might actually be seeing a different approach to the one we will see over the next six weeks. While there is certainly a fair share of challenges, what the current schedule will allow the Maryland coach to do is to continue to integrate and assimilate all of the new parts in his program.

It won’t always be pretty.

Tonight Maryland’s depth and size eventually pummeled the Long Island University Blackbirds into submission before a crowd of 13,000 at Comcast Center. The deceptive final score of 91-74 probably doesn’t reflect the efforts of a Blackbird team that found itself down by only seven points late in the second half. Even with that, one of the enduring lessons that come out of games like this is that there are an awful lot of teams on the Terps schedule this year that are going to have similar struggles with that same size and depth.

For the most part, the results from tonight’s game were positive. Sophomore center Alex Len continues to look like a different man than the guy we saw last year and finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Better than that is how active he is on the defensive end. He blocks plenty of shots and influences twice as many as he blocks.

Sophomore Dez Wells played his best game of the season by far and pitched in 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks while playing three different positions in 33 minutes. After the game, Wells made an interesting admission about his performance in the season opener against Kentucky. When he was asked about his struggles in that game he said, “I was caught up in something I didn’t understand and something I couldn’t control. After I was declared eligible I didn’t have the chance to think about it and pray on it and it cost me in that first game.”

He went on to say that it was a conversation he had with Turgeon the afternoon of the game that changed his approach. Turgeon simply reminded him that he had plenty of good players around him and there was no need for him to feel like he had to be The Man at every turn.

Maryland’s one-two punch at point guard – junior Pe’Shon Howard and freshman Seth Allen- both excelled in different ways. Howard was almost flawless running the point and had 13 assists and committed just one turnover. Consider the second half he cobbled together: he hit is only three point attempt, made each of his two free throw attempts and had 9 assists and no turnovers. You simply cannot play the position a whole lot better than that.

Allen excelled but it may have been at the expense of a Terp who struggled. When sophomore wing Nick Faust endured a completely forgettable first half going 1-6 with 2 turnovers and a host of bad decisions he left Turgeon with little choice but to try some alternatives in the second half. Freshman Jake Layman started in Faust’s spot but it was Allen who played like he didn’t want to give it back. He shot 5-6 from the three point line (7-10 overall) and finished with 19 points with 4 assists and only one turnover.

Seventeen assists and two turnovers from your primary ballhandlers? Take it and run.

Faust wasn’t the only one who struggled in this game. Big men James Padgett and Charles Mitchell each had problem covering the mobile Blackbird big men and also had turnover issues.

Each of the three came back to make important contributions to the 52-point second half Maryland was able to fashion.

The run of non-conference games continues on Tuesday night against the Lafayette Leopards at Comcast Center. The Patriot League opponent features a wiley coach and a three point attack. More importantly it offers another chance for a young team to continue to get better.

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Dusty Baker already preparing Nats rookies for pressure of playoffs

Dusty Baker already preparing Nats rookies for pressure of playoffs

No matter how much MLB regular season experience a player has, that first taste of playoff baseball is always an adjustment. Veterans Daniel Murphy and Ben Revere each spoke about it this past winter when they signed with the Nats. Despite boasting a combined 15 years of MLB experience, both admitted there was an initial shock when they played their first career postseason games last fall. They both mentioned the butterflies and how unexpected that feeling was.

Playoff baseball is just different and, if it took an adjustment for those two, you can imagine what it will be like next week when Nationals rookies like Trea Turner, Pedro Severino and Reynaldo Lopez, as well as youngsters like Joe Ross, take the field for the first time in the postseason. It will be intense and manager Dusty Baker is already talking to his young players about what to expect.

"I've been prepping them every day. I've been telling them 'hey man, it don't matter how old you are, just go out there.' I've been telling them about David and Goliath. I've been telling them about every story I can think of about a young dude that went out there and was brave, whether it was an American-Indian warrior, or what," Baker explained. 

Turner, Severino and Ross will definitely be on hand when the Nationals take on the Dodgers in Game 1. Turner is in the starting lineup, Severino is entrenched as one of the team's two catchers and Ross will be in the rotation.

Lopez is also looking more and more like a lock with the way Baker has been talking about him.

"He could be a one-inning guy, but it just depends. We’d like to try to put him into situations where he’ll most likely succeed," Baker said of Lopez. "Is he ready for that right now? Do you want to find that out in the playoffs?"

Lopez is not counting his eggs before they hatch. He knows he's pitched well lately, with just two earned runs allowed across nine innings in his last two appearances. But he knows his spot is not official yet.

"If God blesses me with that opportunity, I feel like I’m ready and willing to help out the team any way I can to help out the team and hopefully win," he said through an interpreter.

Turner, Severino and Lopez will give the Nats at least three rookies on their playoff roster. There are others with outside chances to crack the final 25, including Koda Glover and Wilmer Difo.

Regardless, Baker will have to rely on some inexperienced players on a stage they've never played on before. 

"It doesn't matter, age at this point. It's how you control your nerves. There are some guys out there, even though they might be veterans, they might be more nervous than some of these kids. Some of these kids, sometimes they don't know what to be nervous about. I'm not afraid to run those kids out there," he said.

[RELATED: Scherzer argues Metro should stay open later for Nats playoffs]

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Gausman hopes he can be the man in postseason

Gausman hopes he can be the man in postseason

NEW YORK—Kevin Gausman has been named as Sunday’s starter in what could be the game that sends the Orioles to the postseason for the third time in five seasons. 

Of course, the Orioles could conceivably clinch a spot on Saturday with a win and a loss by Toronto or Detroit. 

“It’s going to be fun. Hopefully, we can get the job done today and kind of put our stamp on one of those two spots, but yeah, it’s going to be fun. If you had told me at the beginning of the season this is the situation that I was going to be in and had the chance to secure a spot for us, I’d say I’d take that chance and take that responsibility, so it’s pretty exciting,” Gausman said. 

Gausman, who is 8-12 with a 3.66 ERA, says he can feel the postseason is at hand.

“You feel it in the last week. That’s when, [I] started watching some other scores. You look at what the division looks like, what the wild-card looks like. I think I heard there are still 13 scenarios that could happen today and there were 29 yesterday. It’s fun. Every game obviously matters. It means a lot right now,” Gausman said. 

In 2014, Gausman was a reliever in the postseason. If the Orioles get there, he’ll be a starter.

“I think it’s going to be fun. I think in 2014, I really didn’t know for sure what I was going to do and then obviously they told me, and I was excited about that because after having a full year starting under my belt, I felt like I was throwing great so when I went out there it was kind of doing the same thing and you just throw a little bit harder,” Gausman said.

“You get that adrenaline in the playoffs, so I’m kind of excited to kind of start the game and be the guy who gets the ball to start a postseason game and I’ve always thought, being a starting pitcher, it’s your game, especially more in the postseason than ever. You kind of control the outcome of the game. So I’m definitely excited about that.”