Mitch Stringer-US Presswire
The Maryland Terrapins are still finding themselves. They're trying to figure out who turn to when they need a basket to stop a run, or who can hit an outside jumper, or who can run their team at the point.
It may be a small sample size, but they took a step toward answering those questions in their 91-74 win over LIU-Brooklyn, with a variety of players each stepping up big in some regard.
There was Alex Len, who continued to be Alex Len: he dropped 18 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 blocks, continuing to show why he has lottery pick-potential in a few years time. He remains Maryland's most effective go-to scorer, and helps to open up the floor for the rest of the team.
There was Dez Wells, who started to justify his hype with a well-rounded, cool, and productive performance, going for 15 points, 5 assists, and 8 rebounds.
There was Pe`Shon Howard, who quieted doubters (of which I was one) with arguably the best game he's had in College Park, certainly the best second half. He was constantly in control, didn't force anything, got Maryland's offense ticking, and finished with a ridiculous 13 assists to one turnover. His confidence clearly returning, he also pitched in 7 points, 7 boards, and 2 steals, looking like the floor general Maryland so desperately needs.
And, perhaps most of all, there was Seth Allen. He epitomizes Turgeon's personality and philosophy in recruiting, and he legitimized it in a big way: Allen went 5-6 from three-point range, dropping a team-high 19 points and at least temporarily solving Maryland's biggest problem area. While he may be at his best as a combo guard coming off the bench to spell either the two or the three, it'll be tough to keep him out of the starting lineup if he keeps playing like this.
Maryland needed a perimeter scoring threat; Allen popped up. They needed a floor general; Howard responded. They needed a veteran leader; that was Wells. It was as well-rounded a performance, at least in the second half, as I've seen from a Maryland team since the Greivis Vasquez days.
The Terrapins got plenty of good performances past those four, mind you. But they stood out as obvious leaders, players who just seemed to fit - something that Maryland's lacked for quite some time now. They've played three games now, and this is the only one where you could feel like the team was getting comfortable in their roles and identity. Knowing college basketball, this new dynamic will likely not last long. But it could be - and hopefully is - a harbinger of things to come, at least over the long term.
You'll note two things: first, no mention of Nick Faust, who continued his struggles. But it's hardly time to panic over him. He's an immensely talented player who, remember, led Maryland in scoring against Morehead State. What's changed about Maryland is that they can absorb these bad nights and simply turn to someone else. There's so much depth that when Faust is forcing the issue and struggling, someone like Wells or Len or Allen takes the reins and does just fine. I expect - or at least hope - that Faust wil bounce back and prove this.
(That said, he should be sweating. Like I said above, Allen's pushing for starter minutes, and based on the first three games they'd be coming out of Nick's.)
The other important note: Maryland's was as sloppy in the first half as they were impressive in the second. And their defense in the second left quite a bit to be desired, too. Once again, this team isn't there yet - there are still dozens of kinks to work out, and until they do get worked out you'll see some uninspiring, ugly basketball from time to time. But you'll also see a lot of heart and a lot of talent, and that will be enough to win a lot of games. Should they start executing to go along with that, this team will be very, very dangerous come springtime.
One last time, though: it's a long season, and one game - especially this early - proves little. Still, the performance was nothing if not encouraging.