Usually when Terrell Stoglin isn't Maryland's runaway scoring leader, bad things happen. The first two times it happened resulted in 20-point losses for the Terrapins. The next two times they struggled to beat low-level competition Radford and Cornell.
But tonight against Georgia Tech, the Terrapins' leading scorer wasn't Stoglin, but Sean Mosley. And guess what? Maryland took home a 61-50 victory. Mosley dropped 18 points - 16 of them coming in the second half - to lead the Terrapins to a hard-fought win in a sloppy affair over a Yellow Jacket team that was, up until this afternoon, playing its best basketball of the season. James Padgett pitched in with 14 points and 9 rebounds of his own in one of his best performances of the season.
I don't want to draw too much into this - Stoglin still had 14 points and was the offense for much of the second half - but it's interesting that Maryland was good enough tonight to defeat a mid-tier ACC team by double-digits even without getting a full-on #StogMode performance. They had to rely a lot on their defense as well as getting points from some areas that probably won't be there as the season goes on, but it had to start somewhere.
I don't think this is a strategy Maryland should actually be pursuing, mind you. When Stoglin isn't knocking down a bunch of shots, the offense tends to look sloppy, and today's game was a perfect example of that. The first half was the epitome of messy play, with 16 combined turnovers and shooting percentages around 25% for both sides. Maryland, by the virtue of the free throw line and a nice last-second steal-and-dunk by Nick Faust, took a five-point lead into the half. That lead would grow as large as 12 in the second half, and usually hovered around 10 for the majority of the half. Georgia Tech fought back to cut the lead down to four, but a series of clutch plays by Mosley in the final two minutes - including a three-pointer and 4/4 shooting from the free throw stripe - sealed the deal for the Terrapins.
The 11-point victory gives Maryland a 12-4 overall record and raises them to 2-1 in the ACC. Their schedule takes a drastic turn after this victory, but for a season that the Terrapins are taking one game a time, I imagine they (and their fans) will be happy with the turnout so far.
Let's start out with the obvious: Maryland's offense, especially in the first half, probably wasn't good enough to win against the vast majority of ACC teams. That might've been expected to some extent, given that Georgia Tech has one of the best defenses in the conference, but they were extremely sloppy in the first half and had to rely both on James Padgett's offensive rebounding ability and Georgia Tech's proclivity to foul to generate points. That's not always going to be there. They're lucky that Georgia Tech is exceedingly average with the ball, or they could've been staring up at a significant halftime deficit.
But there were good signs as the game went on. The second half was a much better showing, with only five turnovers and a significant uptick in shooting percentage. And they did it with only seven of their 37 points coming from Stoglin. Mosley's activity was a big reason for the improved performance, but the entire offense looked like a more efficient beast than we've seen most of this season.
But perhaps the biggest difference, even bigger than Mosley outscoring Stoglin, was free throw shooting. They've been shooting less than 65% this year, but hit 19-23 tonight - that's 83%. The only misses came from Padgett, who was 6-7, and then three from Ashton Pankey and Berend Weijs. Mosley in particular was good in this area, knocking down 10-10 from the stripe, with Padgett's good showing another pleasant surprise. Maryland has always gotten to the free throw line at a simply absurd rate - usually top five in the country - but their inability to knock them down has kept FTs from being a big part of the offense. If that changes, things will get much easier down the line.
A lot of people were raving about Maryland's defense, too, and though I wasn't impressed I wasn't blown away. Georgia Tech is by far one of the worst offenses in the country, probably around 10th or 11th out of 12. If Glen Rice, Jr., isn't hitting his shots, they really have no scoring options, and Rice finished with only six points on eight shots. They were never going to stand a chance if Rice couldn't score, so I'm not blown away per se by the showing. By the way, that's another area Mosley deserves some serious plaudits - he did a very good of staying on Rice and not giving him open looks.
Without Rice scoring, every facet of GT's offense took a big hit: they shot only 34% from the field, were 3-17 from deep, and ended up with 15 turnovers. Maryland's defense does deserve credit for that, but keep in mind that it came against a very poor unit.
Anyway, if Mosley was the first star here, the second and third ones had to be Padgett and Nick Faust. Padge continues to be dominant on the offensive glass and as good a garbage man as there can be at this level. But what really transformed him today, at least to me, was everything else he did. He hit his free throws. He passed out of the post when he didn't have his shot. He showcased solid post moves. I love Padgett for being a garbage man, but there are a lot of holes in his game. He really seemed to address those holes today, though, and I can't wait to see if he can continue to build as the season goes on.
As for Faust, he had a fantastic stretch in the middle of the game, for which he deserves some serious praise. He had a huge play right before the half, intercepting a pass and taking it down for a monster slam at the other end. Then he had another early in the second half. And then he actually knocked down a jumper. And he continued to flash his solid passing ability.
He's not "there" yet - he continues to take poor shots that never get near the net, and his stroke probably could deal with some more re-tooling. But he's showing why Mark Turgeon loves him: he plays good, active defense, is very athletic, and is a top-notch passer for a wing player. There's a future for him.
The only other two performances I found truly notable were Alex Len's and Pe'Shon Howard's, though for different reasons. Pe' was probably instructed to shoot more after not putting up point in his past several games, but that didn't work: he finished 2-8 from the field with only 5 points. I want to see him shoot more than he was, but that doesn't mean I want him to force a shot that isn't there. If someone has to take a bad shot, it needs to be Terrell Stoglin.
But that wasn't the only problem. Frankly, Pe' didn't look anything like a floor general at the point: he finished with five turnovers and only one assist. Rarely did he force Maryland's half-court offense into a set, and he continued to look overly ambitious with most of his passes. Maryland desperately needs a true point guard, but he didn't provide it tonight.
I'm really not sure how to address Len's performance. He finished scoreless on three shots, but did pitch in nine boards and three blocks. It looks like that might be where his impact is most felt unless he's facing a team without the height to match him. He's still working on his skill level and touch offensively, but it hurts him more when teams can match his length, like both Wake and GT were able to do. Against the 6-8 centers of the world, he's much more able to assert his physical dominance. Either way, he's still a huge defensive who can change every play in the inside.
As I mentioned before, things get a lot tougher over the next few games, starting with a trip to Florida State, then a game at the Palestra against Temple, and then the Duke game at home. There's a very good chance Maryland ends up winless in that stretch, which is part of the reason a win tonight was so big. Hopefully the Terrapins can take some momentum from their two-game winning streak down to Tallahassee; they might need it. But more on that tomorrow. Double-digit ACC wins don't come cheap. Enjoy it while you can.