I have to say: it feels really nice to be winning ACC games by 16 points.
Terrell Stoglin scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half, James Padgett had 15 points and 8 boards, and Nick Faust put in his second straight very strong performance as Maryland blew by Boston College, 81-65. The 16-point margin marks Maryland's largest of the season, and this performance was arguably their best 40-minute showing of the year. Things certainly got tight at times down the stretch, but the win was never really in danger. Save the Samford game, Maryland hasn't put in a performance this complete all season - and Boston College is a shout more talented than Samford.
It certainly didn't seem like things were on pace for an easy win in the opening minutes, as BC went on an early 8-0 run to take a 10-4 lead. After that? All Stog everything. Maryland's star responded with 14 unanswered points, fueling a 29-4 run that very nearly buried the Eagles in the first half. BC fought back a bit and was able to cut the deficit to 41-27 at the half, but the Terrapins were easily in control, largely thanks to the 19 first-half points from Stoglin.
Boston College refused to go away in the second, quickly cutting the lead to eight. Maryland answered and would soon by leading again by as many as 17, but it would get no further. Some effective 1-3-1 pressure slowed Maryland's offense, and Stoglin, so unstoppable in the first half, didn't score a point until the 5:45 mark of the second half. Two contact technical foul calls on Maryland - one on Nick Faust, one on Ashton Pankey - helped BC out a bit, and they were able to cut the lead to as low as 8 with just 1:49 left. But the Terrapins came back with five straight to close out the game, securing an 81-65 win.
A lot of the attention will go to Stoglin's extraordinary first half, but this was a team win. After all, Stoglin only put up five points in the second half - heck, he only took six shots in the second half, which sounds like a fair amount but isn't a ton for him. Faust and James Padgett in particular put in really strong shifts, and Maryland played very strong team defense, holding BC to just 32% shooting from the floor.
Not to sound overly trite, but: you shoot 50% from the floor, and you hold your opponent to 32%, you're going to win.
You had to like what you saw out of Stoglin, which was predictably jaw-dropping at times even with the second half disappearance. He seemed to respond well to the controversy surrounding the Duke game, and his first-half display was as sensational as any I can remember seeing, save Greivis Vasquez's 17 straight against UNC.
It's not just the points, though, or the sensational manner in which many of them came: it's the efficiency. You're never going to make Terrell Stoglin into a perfectly efficient machine - it's just not his style. He's always going to take some ill-advised shots, but darn near half of them will go in so you need to live with that. If you can get him playing smart and playing good defense, though, you have a monster on your hands. We saw some of that tonight: he was pretty efficient at 9-16 shooting (5-8 from deep), had only one turnover, and was solid on defense. He only had one assist, but he was clearly deferring in the second half - sometimes overly so, in my opinion, but that's not the point. Stoglin continues to mature, and it'll serve him well if he keeps on this path.
Meanwhile, Nick Faust really needs to be discussed. We saw a lot of good from Nick tonight, and some bad as well. But the good should have you excited. It's starting to become clear just how much potential he has: he's very athletic, he plays great defense, he's an extraordinary passer, he plays with oodles of confidence, and he's unselfish. There's a lot there to mold, and as he becomes more and more comfortable only good things will happen. He played a great all-around game today, finishing with 14 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 5 steals. That it came at point guard, not his true spot, is even more exciting.
In fact, he had two absolutely jaw-dropping plays late in the game. First, a no-look, behind-the-head pass to James Padgett that was downright absurd. (In fact, I have no idea if Padgett actually finished it. It was that nasty.) Directly after, his defender backed off a bit and he drove it straight to the hoop for a thunderous slam. He's an exciting player and a future cornerstone to the team.
But make no mistake, there are still a lot of edges to finish off. The biggest: his handle. It's very loose right now, which gets him into trouble when he's faced with pressure. He often seems out of control or unsure when he's handling the ball on the perimeter (he's better when attacking the rim). That's not a huge deal for a swingman, but he's being asked to handle the point at the moment and that makes it tough. Also, he was 4-12 from the floor today, which is a mini-Stog statline (8-24, anyone?) - I'm not overly concerned by it because the majority of the shots weren't bad and will start to fall at some point, but it's just a reminder that he'll probably never possess a deadly shot from the floor. His future is at the rim.
As far as the big men go, James Padgett turned in a strong shift, but it wasn't much other than what we've come to expect from him: offensive rebounds, grit, and tough buckets. Ashton Pankey and Berend Weijs, who actually started the game, combined to play only 32 minutes, and aside from decent defense by Weijs were more or less unremarkable.
Alex Len turned in a rollercoaster performance: his defense was very good, his rebounding up-and-down, and his offense not so great. Most worrisome to me is that he picked up 4 fouls in only 17 minutes - he loves to jump to contest shots - but to his credit recorded four blocks and must've had another three or four altered. I'll take that trade every day. As far as rebounding goes, the stats are a little jaw-dropping: 9 boards in just 17 minutes is pretty ridiculous, and should serve as a reminder of what he's capable of at this level. That said, I do have to say that we still saw some weak hands out of him again, and that'll hurt against teams with stronger frontcourts. We've known that's there, but if he can fix it he'll be really monstrous. Offensively? One really pretty move, a few bobbled passes, and three forced shots, and not much else.
If he can be a force on defense and on the boards, I'm content. The offense is going to be the slowest to come along, I guess, and that's okay.
Two more notes, one personnel and one team: first of all, I love what I've seen out of Mychal Parker lately. He's a great example of a guy who can do a few things really well and is starting to just fill out his niche. His big sale is that he's almost always the most athletic guy in the gym. So what do we start to see out of him? Attacking the rim. Blocks in transition. Alley-oops. Fighting for loose balls. And otherwise, staying out of the way and letting the game come to him. I don't know what the ceiling is for him, but if he keeps playing like this he'll be at the very least a very effective sixth man who can change a game's pace at the drop of a hat. Think Deron Washington, only on a team with talent.
Secondly: Maryland tonight had 15 assists. That's an assist on more than half of their made baskets. They haven't had 15 assists since the Cornell game back in late December. Putting Stoglin on the 2 full-time and letting him catch-and-shoot has almost everything to do with that, but it isn't the first time that we've seen it. The ball movement was nice tonight, and the offense ran much smoother as a result. Hopefully it'll be kept up against teams not named Boston College.
To close: yes, BC is pretty bad. But they're not entirely terrible - they did beat FSU, nearly beat VT and GT on the road, and almost took out N.C. State - and besides, Maryland has faced much worse teams without putting together such a strong performance. Tonight's a night to feel good. We can worry about improving more tomorrow, but this was an encouraging show with a lot of positives.