It’s difficult to ascribe a whole lot of significance to the Maryland Terrapins 100-68 thrashing of Maryland Eastern Shore at Comcast Center. The win improved the Terps to 7-1 on the young season as they employed a selfless approach to have five players in double figures.
Look a little bit closer at those five in double figures and you may find the best part of the night for head coach Mark Turgeon and his staff. Four of those five happen to be second-team players – a few of which had not played much of late – who were rewarded by their coach for their hard work and given larger roles in this game.
Turgeon surprised his troops on Tuesday by informing him that he was changing the starting lineup to give opportunities to many of his younger players. He started freshman Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman and Seth Allen alongside usual starters Dez Wells and James Padgett.
For Turgeon this amounts a fairly radical change. He is notoriously superstitious and admitted after the game that he is “a status quo guy” that has never made such a sweeping change – especially with a team on a roll.
Then again, perhaps Turgeon has never had a team with this kind of depth and wealth of options.
Given the nature of players today there can be no doubt that some of the second-team guys had been in his office asking about getting some additional minutes. As a coach, you want it that way. Every player is about playing more. Every coach is about playing better. Occasionally you can meet in the middle and keep everybody happy.
It also helps to have the right opponent at the right time.
UMES entered the game 0-7. Their closest game for the season was a ten-point loss on the road against MEAC rival Delaware State. They dressed eight players and tonight’s game was the first in a three game death march that includes games at Cincinnati and Connecticut.
Each of the freshmen took advantage of their opportunity. Layman broke out of a season-long shooting slump, scoring 10 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. The man-child that is Shaquille Cleare had 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks and Allen had a career-high 8 assists to go along with his 8 points and 3 steals.
Keeping in line with the theme of the night, reserve guard Logan Aaronhalt added a season high 17 points after shooting 5-7 from the three-point line. As if that weren’t enough, two of the three players at the end of the Maryland bench – Conner Lipinski and Spencer Barks – scored in the waning minutes.
High fives all around!
There were a couple of minor developments of note: starting point guard Pe’Shon Howard logged only nine minutes due to a stomach ailment. With him out, Turgeon turned to sophomore wing Nick Faust to play minutes as the point and he was terrific. His stat line was 10 points and 7 assists versus just 1 turnover. Star center Alex Len barely seemed to play in this game but he did shoot a perfect 4-4 from the field and finished with 9 points and 9 rebounds in 17 minutes.
Perhaps the best stat of the night was circled by Turgeon just minutes after the game. His team had earned 27 assists on 38 made field goals. By virtually any standard against any opponent that is a great number and one that had the head coach giddy (by his standards) after the game.
The Maryland “MEAC demolition” tour continues on Saturday afternoon at Comcast against South Carolina State.