Terrell Stoglin scored 22 points, Ashton Pankey and James Padgett combined for 25 points and 15 rebounds, and the Maryland Terrapins defeated the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks in Mark Turgeon's coaching debut, 71-62.
The scoreline was probably a bit closer than Maryland was comfortable with, but the Terps did show some flashes, particularly in the post with strong performances from both Pankey and Padgett. There's plenty to work on early in Turgeon's tenure - halfcourt offense has to be at the top of that list - but hey: they're undefeated. If there's ever a time to play the optimist, it's now.
There was a pretty big surprise in the starting lineup: Stoglin actually started the day on the bench, passed over by Nick Faust and Mychal Parker. The move seemed more or less symbolic, as Stoglin entered the game three minutes later and ended up logging more minutes than anyone else on the team (33). I can't help but wonder if Turgeon might've been trying to send a message with that, or if he simply realized the team needed Stoglin's scoring ability. Knowing him, he's likely to actually tell us.
It sort of looked like the basketball team was taking lessons from their gridiron counterparts, starting out slow and
falling behind 7-2 early trailing at the first media timeout. Unsurprisingly, they fought back and, on the back of 14 first-half points for Stoglin, took a 32-27 lead into halftime. Maryland opened things up in the second half a bit, building the lead up to as large as 14, but a late UNC-W charge brought the Seahawks to within 6 in the final minute. A few clutch free throws by Faust and Stoglin, though, sealed the deal.
At the end of the day, the big worry for Maryland has to be the half-court offense, namely turnovers and shooting. They had nine turnovers at half compared to only three assists, and the final line of 13 TOs to 7 assists wasn't much better. It's tough to win when you have twice as many giveaways as assists, after all. On the shooting front, they made only one jumper (non lay-up/post shot) in the first half, which was 1-15 by my count; they finished 5-28. Part of that had to do with poor shooting, but they also failed to run plays to get open shots. What shots they did get ended up being contested or forced more often than not.
The offense started to click a bit more in the second half, when good defense allowed them to get out and run. Maryland is still a team of athletes, and they still look at home in transition. That creates an interesting problem: they don't have the depth to ever get into a track meet with any team, but their half-court offense left a ton to be desired. That'll be an interesting juggling act.
If you're looking for a positive, the post players delivered. (Who would've thought that?) They dominated the boards and were generally able to score inside when they wanted to. Especially impressive was Padgett, who seems to have really taken a leap in the offseason. Normally a bit tentative in the post, he was very forceful tonight and showed off both a bit of toughness and some skill. He finished with 12 points and 7 boards (6 of those offensive), and even dropped two impressive dimes. It's early and only UNC-Wilmington, but if this is Padgett for the year, he's a very pleasant surprise.
So, too, is Pankey, who looks like Maryland's strongest physical player. His offensive game was a nice surprise, and his numbers were actually better than Padgett's across the board, finishing with 13 and 8. He showcased a nice little turnaround jumper, some Padgett-esque garbage work on the inside, and even made all three of his free throws. Again, I know we haven't seen them against an elite big yet, but this was as good a performance as I would've dared to have hope for.
The guards, perceived by many as the strength before the game, actually disappointed a bit. Stoglin, for what it's worth, still played plenty of point, and looked better than he did in the exhibition in avoiding over-dribbling (except one pretty critical turnover late in the game). He still did force the issue a bit, but that happened more when he was functioning as a 2-guard. He finished as Maryland's leading scorer with 22 points, but was also 6-16 from the field and had a 1:4 A/TO ratio. I don't think Turgeon loves his game, but there's not much choice but to play him major minutes.
Faust was at point a fair amount as well, but not exclusively. He looked fine, but he certainly wasn't expected to make a big impact in play-making, anyway. He does need to work on being a bit more forceful in making himself available when a teammate is in trouble, but that will come with time. In all honesty, the love affair probably didn't kick into full gear tonight, but he was more or less as good as you'd expect for a freshman making his debut off his natural position. He looked a bit jittery and ended up only 1-4 from the floor, with the lone bucket being a baseline dunk. He did get to the line consistently, but shot only 5-9 from the stripe. (To his credit, he nailed two big freebies late in the game, hopefully an indication of a clutch predilection.)
The real surprise for Faust was just how well he played defensively. He's 6-6, athletic, and has long arms, which made him a nightmare for UNC-Wilmington's smaller guards. He finished with three steals and a block, and was the man upon whom Turgeon looked to stop the Seahawks' Adam Smith down the stretch. I mentioned earlier that Faust doesn't lack any offensive skill; I certainly didn't expect him to have the potential to be an elite defender, too. His six rebounds weren't shabby, either.
Parker and Mosley were the other big contributors, but I don't think either did much more or less than you would've expected. Mosley's four turnovers were worrisome, but past that he was the same impressive defender and hard worker he's always been. Parker will draw plaudits, and I did think played okay, though he wasn't a particularly big surprise for me: he was athletic, made a free throw, and converted a tough-but-potentially-lucky shot.
Again, it was a bit closer than I think anyone felt comfortable with, but I've seen worse. Now the focus switches to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, and trying to snag an upset win over #17 Alabama. See you then.