B1G statement for Terps

B1G statement for Terps
November 28, 2012, 8:00 am
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It was the kind of night where even the news of mechanical issues for their charter flight home could not dampen the spirit of the Maryland Terrapins.

They had just completely laid waste to the Northwestern University Wildcats on the road in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (ironic, right?) and each Terp player met the news of a seven hour delay in the flight home with a smile and a simple shrug of their collective shoulders.

Both the Terps and the Wildcats entered this game with a lot more questions than answers. The Wildcats had started 6-0 and were coming off their best win of the early season after having beaten Illinois State in overtime in a Texas warm-up tournament.

The Terps had not played a true road game to date and were coming off of a completely lackluster performance against an exceptionally mediocre Georgia Southern team…a showing that left head coach Mark Turgeon replace three starters in the second half and had him seething in his postgame press conference.

It was also the first game in the most important pre-holiday stretch of the Maryland schedule. After having lost to then third-ranked Kentucky in their opening game, the Terps schedule offered them very few opportunities for quality non-conference wins before beginning ACC play in January. In a short five day period they would have opportunities to win on the road in Chicago at Northwestern and against a good George Mason team at Verizon Center in the BB&T event this upcoming Sunday.

Consider the first box checked.

The first half was not pretty. While they led 28-26 at the break, the Terps turned the ball over 11 times against a Wildcat team that offered little in the way of pressure. Those miscues completely negated an insane 27-10 rebounding advantage for the visitors. The Northwestern offense that had been completely in synch in their first six games appeared to be completely lost against the size and strength of the Maryland defense. Northwestern entered the game shooting over 40% from the three point line for the season. Eventually the Terps were able to chase the Wildcats off the three point arc and hurry them into 3-16 shooting for the half but those overplays did allow three uncontested backdoor layups off of their patented Princeton offense and meant the game was probably closer at the break than it could have- or should have- been.

As closely contested as the game was at half, it’s pretty incredible to think that many of the fans in the building were starting to leave just inside the 12 minute media timeout in the second half.

A completely different Maryland offensive team came out of the locker room out of the break. Turgeon made two adjustments in the locker room – one a tweak to his fast break and the other a renewed emphasis on getting the ball inside to capitalize on their overwhelming size advantage.

The game started with a flurry of easy baskets by forward James Padgett and Alex Len and forced Northwestern coach Bill Carmody into a quick timeout barely three minutes into the half with the Terps in control at 40-33.

Padgett was very workmanlike in the paint while Len delivered a staggering series of dunks and putbacks and face-up jumpers against the helpless Northwestern interior. As good as he was offensively, Len might have been better on the defensive end. He completely anchored the Maryland defense and almost single handedly kept the Wildcats out of the paint in the second half.

After Len picked up his third foul seven minutes into the half and the Terps up double digits his teammates were more than capable of picking up the slack.

Sophomore wing Dez Wells had been taunted by the Northwestern students for most of the first half and he would go into beast mode after the break. In one fifteen second segment he followed up a three point swish on the offensive end with a rebound on the defensive end where he took the ball coast to coast and scored an acrobatic, twisting, no-way-he-sees-the-basket finish on the other end.

Turgeon had called sophomore point guard Pe’Shon Howard “completely lost” against Georgia Southern and opted not to play him for most of the second half of that game. Howard responded with a virtuoso floor game in the second half with six assists versus one turnover against the switching Northwestern defenses. He also probably lost four or five assist when his teammates were unable to corral his lob passes against Northwestern’s 1-3-1 zone.

One of the primary beneficiaries of Howard’s administration of the Maryland offense was fifth year senior Logan Aaronhalt. Barely a week ago this guy was in danger of playing his way out of Turgeon’s rotation. In the Georgia Southern game he nailed four three pointers to change the direction of that game and in this one tonight he hit three more – all in the second half.  He has now made ten field goals for the season and each has been behind the three point line to help take some of the double teams away from Len and company on the inside.

The final score of 77-57 was representative of the collective beatdown Maryland delivered on the road. As it turned out, it was one of only two ACC wins for the evening and gave the conference a shot in the arm against a Big Ten onslaught of wins.