Over their last five games, Maryland discovered a winning identity. The team pulled off comeback wins and beat strong opponents in adverse conditions.
A big part of that success was freshman guard Seth Allen. And now, with the Terps set to face Alabama in the third round of the NIT, Allen can no longer play.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon revealed what many suspected: Seth Allen will likely miss the remainder of the season with a broken bone in his left (shooting) hand. Pictures of Allen with his hand wrapped up popped up today on the social network Instagram, and Turgeon opened his press availability with the news of Allen’s injury.
"I feel bad for Seth because he's really been playing well," Turgeon said. "It's a big blow to us because of the way he's been playing, but it just gives other guys the opportunity to step up."
Allen’s absence will hurt the Terps, but Maryland’s best players over the last few weeks have been a pair of sophomores: Dez Wells and Nick Faust. Since postseason play began for the Terps five games ago in the ACC Tournament, Wells has averaged more than 19 points per game and Faust has been going for almost 13 a game.
Wells and Faust present the two most athletic options for Maryland. Either player can handle the ball and finish at the rim. Neither is a dead-eye jumpshooter, but both are capable of making the mid-range shot and 3-pointer.
Playing with a sore knee since the ACC Tournament, Wells said that he is fine and the knee should not be an issue at Alabama. Wells missed practice on Sunday, but Turgeon said that was more of a precaution.
“It hurts to win championships,” Well said. He added that this time of year all teams are banged up.
Faust said that with Allen out he will be forced to handle the ball more, a role that he at times struggled with during the season. Turgeon said that junior Pe’Shon Howard will get more minutes at the point, and Howard has been playing well of late.
Alabama, a No. 1 seed in the NIT, beat defending champion Stanford 66-54 on Saturday. The Crimson Tide went 12-6 in SEC play this season and were considered one of the first few teams left out of the NCAA Tournament.
With coach Anthony Grant in charge, the Tide runs full court pressure defense and like to go up-tempo.
Turgeon said he looks forward to the challenge.
“I like it when teams press us,” Turgeon said.
Though it would be nice to have a strong guard like Allen against the press, the Terps still have capable ball-handlers. Howard, along with Faust and Wells, will get the bulk of the primary point guard duties, and Turgeon said that Maryland could use some of its stable of big men against Alabama.
In the Terps last game, the front court proved ineffective against Denver’s perimeter-oriented lineup. Though Alabama also plays with more of a back court focus, they do not run the Princeton offense that so flummoxed Maryland’s big men in the Denver game.
Last time Maryland played Alabama, the Terps got rocked. That came last season in Puerto Rico, an ugly 62-42 loss in an early-season tournament that Turgeon said his team was lucky to score 10 by halftime.
Faust was on the floor in Puerto Rico for that loss, and he said he remembered it well.
“We’d like to get them back,” Faust said.
Success on the road has been difficult for Maryland this season. Turgeon has repeatedly said how his team has improved in the postseason through three ACC Tournament games and two NIT games.
Maryland now faces a truly tough test: a good team on the road, minus Allen, who gives the team offensive firepower. If the Terps pull this off, they will be heading to New York City to play in the NIT Final Four.
Wells explained that his team wants this win, and that even though the NIT is not the NCAA Tournament, the Terps are in this to win a title. Next stop: Tuscaloosa.