After another convincing win, Maryland is starting to play like a team who could return to the NCAA tournament this year -- a lot still has to happen for that goal to be achieved, but one thing is becoming drastically clear and that is...
This team is who we thought they were (when Seth Allen is in the lineup)
When it was announced that Seth Allen would be returning for the game against Tulsa, many wondered how profound of an impact he'd have on the team. We expected Allen to slowly work his way back into the rotation, especially after head coach Mark Turgeon said he'd get "a few minutes" in the game, and maybe by late January he'd be able to start making significant contributions to a team that had struggled with its offensive identity during their first 12 games.
Allen jumped right in and immediately made an impact for the Terps, scoring 15 points and playing 21 minutes in his first game back against Tulsa. In his three games since his return, he's averaged 20.3 minutes, 13.6 points and three assists per game. Maryland has won each of those games by an average margin of 13.7 points.
The impact of Allen's return can't be measured just in what he's contributed -- he's having a profound impact on his teammates as well. Nick Faust has averaged 16 points per game since Allen's return to the rotation. Roddy Peters has a 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio since Allen joined him in the backcourt, up from a 1.25 to 1 ratio in his first 12 games. Maryland's assist to turnover ratio as a team prior to Allen's return was 0.9 to 1, as they turned the ball over more times than they recorded an assist. With Allen playing, that ratio is now 1.21 to 1, showing that they're turning the ball over less and recording more assists. The Terps only committed six turnovers in the entire game against Georgia Tech.
Competition does wonders
A few weeks ago, following a tough Maryland loss, Mark Turgeon discussed in his post game press conference about the need for additional depth on his bench, not only to give players a break on the court, but to foster more competition among his team. He lamented that not having additional players who could play was resulting in him and his staff being unable to pull out players and coach them after they made a mistake during a game. I think Turgeon was saying that he can't count on every player being healthy throughout a season because if someone like Seth Allen goes down, he needs to have quality depth on the bench who can step up and fill in those missing minutes. With Allen's return, it gives Turgeon another reliable option off the bench, allowing him to be more selective about who plays when and enabling him to pull players when needed.
The competition aspect also extends into Maryland's front court play, which has struggled with inconsistency most of this season. Turgeon recently decided to start freshman Damonte Dodd and Jonathan Graham at the five spot while sporadically using Shaq Cleare and Charles Mitchell, sending a message to both players that they would have to work harder to earn their minutes. The message was received, as Turgeon said both Shaq and Mitchell were working hard to earn those minutes back. Shaq responded against Georgia Tech, reclaiming his starting spot back while having one of his best offensive games of the season, scoring eight points. He appeared much more confident and assertive on the offensive end and also did a good job defensively against Georgia Tech center Daniel Miller, holding him to just seven points and four rebounds.
Hopefully Turgeon can continue to use competition as a motivator and tool to continue to get this team to improve in conference play.
Maryland can win when Dez Wells and Jake Layman don't score a lot
There was a key stretch in the first half of yesterday's game when Dez Wells and Jake Layman were both on the bench with two fouls. Georgia Tech was fighting to keep the score within striking distance, but Maryland was able to maintain a 16 point lead entering halftime. The Terps showed that other players are capable of stepping up and scoring if Dez and Layman both have a somewhat off night. Six other players scored at least five points for Maryland against Tech, which will be important as conference play continues and the team could find themselves with key players in foul trouble or having an off-night shooting.
Other notes and observations:
- Maryland had another great three-point shooting game, making 10/19 from beyond the arc, including 4/6 by Nick Faust. Speaking of Faust...
- Nick Faust has been shooting lights out over his past three games, shooting 9/16 from beyond the arc and 14/24 overall.
- Maryland again struggled at the end of the game with free-throw shooting, going 4/8 from the line in the last five minutes while twice missing the front end of a one and one. This has been a reccurring problem this season that could come back and cost this team during a close conference game.
- Nice rebounding game by Charles Mitchell, who grabbed 11 boards. If he could improve his touch around the basket he'd be a very good player.