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.