Maryland's had a penchant for playing ugly, sloppy, and boring games as of late. It happens, I suppose, when you have a young team still gelling playing cupcakes in front of empty arenas, but it doesn't make life any more fun being a fan.
Still, never stare a gift horse in the mouth. The games might be ugly, but another big, comfortable W over win column-fodder is something I'll take every day. Tonight's was a 71-38 victory over the Monmouth Hawks, a 33-point win that lengthened Maryland's win streak to nine straight, with all but one coming by at least 15 points. (Hey, longest stretch since 2002!) It may not be unparalleled destruction, but it's more or less what you want to see from a tournament-quality high-major running through comparative no-names.
Leading the way was, yet again, a host of Terrapins, with none really taking a starring role. Nick Faust broke out of his recent slump, leading all scorers with 16; Alex Len added 13 points and 10 boards; Dez Wells finished with 10 of his own; James Padgett threw in a quiet nine and six. For the game, Maryland shot 58% from the field and held Monmouth to just 20%, outrebounded the Hawks by 15, and shot a respectable 79% from the stripe. It was many of the things we'd been looking for from the Terps over the past few weeks, even if it came inconsistently.
The first half, though, possessed none of those nice, shiny stats, with poor shooting, a mind-boggling number of turnovers (40% of their possessions!) and a rare rebounding % deficit. It was a particularly dispiriting display, and Maryland possessed a lead only thanks to Monmouth's own wickedly bad field goal percentage (and, of course, it helped that Maryland was fairly accurate with the shots they did get off).
The second half, by comparison, was like flipping a switch. Maryland was sharper, more effective and efficient, and more dialed-in on defense and rebounding. If the first half was dispiriting, the second half was dominant, and it led to most of the impressive numbers I mentioned above.
The only downside? Still, 24 turnovers (most of those coming in the first half, but still) is a worrisome number, especially because the TO's have been a problem all year. The main culprit: Seth Allen, who gave the ball away eight times. That's one of the hazards with asking a freshman combo guard to be your backup point guard, though, and it's something that Maryland unfortunately has to take in stride. Allen has some great moments and could be a very good point guard in the future, but he has some growing pains and will need to work through them. It's not as if he was the only one (Pe'Shon Howard had three, Nick Faust four) but it's a reminder that he's still a ways away from where Howard is as a floor general.
But hey, it may've been ugly basketball, but it was at least basketball, so savor it while you can. It's another nine days before this team will take the floor again, against a sneaky-good Stony Brook team, and then another eight days after that until they see out the new year against Delaware State. That's right: there's one game in the next seventeen days.
My friends, we have hit the winter doldrums.
Really puts a whole new perspective on a 33-point win, doesn't it? At least it's something. And a somewhat encouraging something, at that.