What do the Winston-Salem State, UNC-Greensboro, and Boston College games all have in common? They were Maryland's three biggest, most convincing wins, yes. They were also the only games in which Maryland has received more than 30% of their scoring from the bench.
The first two games also had the distinction of being two of the worst opponents on the year for Maryland. But BC? They aren't great, but they did beat Miami and are an ACC team. That Maryland received 41% of their points from the bench today - largely from Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie - is pretty encouraging. Regardless, lets not confuse cause and effect here: I'll be more confident about bench scoring winning games when they do it against a legitimate opponent.
That said, it's still an important aspect to any game, and to Maryland, it seems a key of sorts. In Maryland's five losses, bench scoring was absurdly low, about just 12%. The most notable games? William and Maryland and Villanova, in which the bench produced only 5% and 6% of Maryland's points, respectively. There's some correlation there, because you're not telling me W&M is significantly better than, say, Florida State.
Of course, they can't force what isn't there, which is why Bowie's and Tucker's recent emergence is so encouraging and, simultaneously, important. Bowie has gone in double-digits in three of the last four games; Tucker hasn't been as consistent, but had 14 yesterday. Their offense provides often crucial points, illustrated when neither showed up against Wake Forest.
Greivis Vasquez gets tunnel vision a lot; he did against Wake. The reason? No legitimate secondary options (they exist, but disappear too often). That's where the bench is supposed to come in. Tucker and Bowie are sparkplug and stopgap kind of guys, filling the hole in between scorers and providing an ability to create some offense - Tucker with jumpers, Bowie with defense - that even Vasquez can't. When Maryland is slumping, they provide different looks and different ways of scoring, and that helps break the slump. Their performance is a big reason why Maryland didn't have a patented scoring drought against BC. They add another dimension and help to round out the backcourt more completely.
They'll be especially crucial later in the year. Maryland has gone with a short bench this year, and the main guys have been ridden hard. As they tire, it'll be Bowie's and Tucker's fresh legs that take more and more of the load late in the year.
They aren't perfect and they're far too inconsistent to be a big threat, and before long they'll have a disappointing outing. Don't be surprised, though, to see them light it up every time Maryland gets a big win.