Knoche: Terps impressive vs. Virginia Tech

Knoche: Terps impressive vs. Virginia Tech
January 5, 2013, 6:15 pm
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If a game like today’s ACC opener against the Virginia Tech Hokies was looked at like a test for a young Maryland Terrapins basketball team then not only did the Terps ace their test, they also sent message to the rest of the kids in the class that they are not to be toyed with while school is in session.

That the Hokies came in on a serious skid cannot be questioned. They had lost four of their last six games after starting the season 7-0 and had not played a home game since December 15th. Still, it’s a team that features the ACC’s best point guard and leading scorer in Erick Green and a formidable amount of size and offensive talent.

Even with that the Terps authored a pretty significant 94-71 beatdown of the visitors that was convincing in virtually every imaginable way.

How bad was it? Try this on for size; at one point in the second half the Hokies went on a 13-2 run to cut a Terp lead to 11 at 69-58 with just less than ten minutes remaining in the game. Yet even with that run the Terps still enjoyed an easy run-away 23 point win in front of a sell-out crowd of 17,950 at Comcast Center.

With Maryland starting wing Nick Faust nursing an injury suffered in practice this week, the Terps chose to start freshman Jake Layman in his spot. In the NFL when this happens teams always talk about the “next man up” being responsible for keeping things going. 

Evidently Layman is a football fan.

He spotted up and nailed a long three pointer just 11 seconds into the game. He had seven points at the first media timeout with just under 16:00 to play in the first half and he never stopped. Eventually he finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds – both of which were double his career highs.

Freshmen Charles Mitchell and Seth Allen each had huge games in their first ever conference game. Mitchell started the game by hitting his first four shots in that critical first half and helped to establish the Terps in the paint early in the game.

As good as Layman was in this game, Allen may have been better.

Also a beneficiary of increased playing time due to Faust’s injury, Allen came into the game asserting himself against a Tech team that seemed more than a little disengaged on the defensive end of the court. He scored 21 points on just 12 field goal attempts – terrific efficiency for a combination guard - and proved to be a nightmare matchup for whichever Hokie guard attempted to matchup with him.

The Terps completely dominated this game without having a huge game from its most reliable parts. Sophomore Dez Wells made some important plays after Tech had trimmed the lead a bit in the second half but ended up fouling out of the game with a fairly pedestrian 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assist stat line.

Center Alex Len was the center of attention in a lot of ways in this game. First of all, there were over 20 NBA scouts in attendance to see him and Green play in this game. Beyond that, every time he touched the ball in the early going of this game he forced Tech to double team him. Eventually the Terps shot the ball so well from the three point line that the Hokies were forced to play Len one on one in the post. He finished with a solid 16 points and 9 rebounds. The effort marked a return to form for the big man considering his sub-par outings the last two games but it still wasn’t quite up to the way he had performed for most of November and December.

Point guard Pe’Shon Howard probably played far better than his stat line suggests. He was 0 for 5 from the field but hit all six of his free throw attempts and added six assists. When the Terps are playing well and scoring in transition he has an almost uncanny knack of finding the hot shooter on the break and setting him up for an easy look along the three point line.

When the conference schedule came out in August, the games over the next week (starting today) looked like a brutal stretch of quality competition where teams would be trying to separate themselves from each other in the standings. The Terps were able to undress a struggling Virginia Tech team today and will play a Florida State team on Wednesday who, at 8-5, can only be seen as disappointing considering their successes the past two years.

The win today gave Maryland their thirteenth consecutive victory and, more importantly, a clean 1-0 start in league play. After the game Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon made a comment that had to be music the collective ears of Terrapin nation when he said that he thought his team would be considerably better in another month after regular games against ACC-caliber competition.

Some may see that as being bulletin board material for opposing locker rooms. For those that saw this game they probably left Comcast Center thinking that Turgeon is probably right.