Pictured: not Seth Allen. - Streeter Lecka
Things were sloppy early, but once Mark Turgeon's freshmen settled down - Seth Allen in particular - Maryland finished with a comfortable win to kick off the year.
Maryland got an early scare from Indiana University (Pa.) in their exhibition that opened the Terrapins' season, but strong second-half showings from Nick Faust and Seth Allen led the Terps to an ultimately comfortable 73-61 win. IUP led at half, 34-33, largely thanks to stagnant offense from Maryland, but the Terrapins' youngsters grew into the game and ended up with a fairly comfortable margin at the end of the day.
As you might expect with so many newcomers, there was plenty of sloppy play, especially early. Offense was stop-start until things caught fire in the second-half, and there were enough defensive lapses that IUP were able to get some easy buckets to stay in it. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect came in rebounding, where Maryland rebounded about even with the smaller and less athletic Crimson Hawks for most of the game. There will be plenty for Mark Turgeon to work on over the next week.
But there were bright spots, too, Faust and Allen in particular. Faust looks like the same Nick Faust we know and love from last year (with the same problems, too), but Allen was an absolute revelation. He was extraordinarily quick, showcased great handles, and was Maryland's leading scorer on the game with 16 points on 4-9 shooting. But he was good in every aspect of the game throwing in five steals - seriously, he's got some quick hands - plus five assists and, critically, no turnovers.
I'll go a bit deeper into this because I know a lot of people didn't watch, but first a word about these types of games: preseason exhibitions are famously inconsequential - Syracuse losing to Le Moyne a few years back is always the big example - and it's particularly true for freshman, who get exponentially better as the year goes on and they get more experienced. Similarly, there can be a desire to extrapolate observations from an exhibition to show things that they don't really imply. For instance, saying Player A looked a lot better than Player B in the game does not mean Player A will be better than Player B for the rest of the year. All it means is that Player A outplayed Player B in this game.
I go to lengths to say that because there were two players who looked a lot better than their roster counterparts in this game, an observation which merits a mention but which does not hold any serious predictive value. The first was Allen, who looked like a player Mark Turgeon will have a hard time leaving out of the starting lineup. Pe`Shon Howard, who is currently considered the obvious choice at point guard, has some serious competition, especially because he didn't do much to lock down his own place. That's obviously to be expected from Howard, who is working his way back from injury still and getting back up to game speed. He played fairly smart throughout the game, but lacked the bit of magic Allen seemed to show both on and off the ball. I expect Howard, as an experienced team leader, has a pretty wide berth right now for his spot. But Allen's thrown down the gauntlet a bit.
The other guy who really stood out: Charles Mitchell, who finished with - get this - 15 rebounds in 18 minutes. Chuck doesn't have great height, but he uses his girth, long arms, surprising athleticism, and extraordinary energy to dominate the glass, and in a game that almost every other big man was anonymous down low. Compare that to Shaquille Cleare, who looked more or less lost (and heard as much from Mark Turgeon), and James Padgett, who finished with only four boards in the same amount of time Mitchell was on the court. Much like Howard, Padgett has a wide berth for his spot, especially because Mitchell may be best-served as an energy impact guy off the bench. And Cleare looks like he needs some time to grow into the game; I'm sure he'll be fine once he does. But just like Allen, Mitchell made a statement tonight.
As for the others: Alex Len wasn't really active, finishing with eight points and five boards despite playing 27 minutes. He's still at his best on defense, where he had four blocks, but if all of those fanciful lottery projections are to come to fruition, he needs to start asserting himself throughout the game. He took only five shots, and tonight he seemed almost like the last option on the floor. Part of that is down to Maryland's guards, I suppose, but a bigger part is down to Len. If Padge can get off six shots of his own, Len can get off more than five. Maryland needs an improved Len to be successful this year. Hopefully he'll present it.
Jake Layman struggled in the first half, but as the game opened up he looked a lot more comfortable. He's not a great half-court offensive option, because his tendency at that point is to sort of float around instead of attack spaces or attack the basket. Once the tempo picked up and Seth Allen took control, Layman seemed significantly more comfortable. He's at home pressing, running on the break, and hanging out on the baseline for mid-range floaters or finishes at the rim. Logan Aronhalt finished with eight points but importantly was 2-3 from deep, and you get the feeling he'll be Maryland's designated shooter this year. He's got a nice stroke and looks money when he has an open look, so he'll get his minutes there. I don't know how much else he can do, but he has one big skill, and it's arguably the most important in the game.
Like I said, though, take the last four paragraphs with giant grains of salt. It's an exhibition. We'll get a better idea of where things stand in a week.