So, Alex Len finally made his much-awaited debut for the Maryland Terrapins tonight. The big Ukranian didn't fix all of Maryland's problems, but Mark Turgeon's squad certainly looked a more balanced and competent team than they've seemed of late: the Terrapins defeated Albany 83-72, both their largest margin of victory and highest point total of the season. And, for once, they looked the better team against a mid-major opponent.
That's heartening for many reasons, not least of which because they've struggled so much against teams not near as good as the Great Danes. Maryland's fanbase has recently embraced the mantra "a win is a win is a win," but they are much sweeter when they come by 11 instead of 3.
Anyway, despite the fanfare surrounding Len, Maryland's leader was the same guy it's been all along: Terrell Stoglin, who poured in 22 points, including 6 three-pointers (he shot upwards of 50% from deep), with a much more efficient and safe performance than we're used to seeing from him. He only played 29 minutes, too; if this is the Stoglin at Turgeon's disposal for the rest of the season, very good things could be in store.
Len, for his part, might've been the second best player on the Terrapins' roster. He finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds, plus 3 blocks and a host of dunks. His potential is obvious; it's pretty clear, too, how nice it'll be to have an athletic 7-footer on the floor. He was a starter in his first game, and I have to say I like the decision. Still, he's raw and it shows. The five turnovers he had tonight should improve as time goes on, but against more seasoned and bigger teams, he'll be forced into undesirable situations more often. Even if he's only 7-feet and athletic, though, he's going to be a huge asset going forward.
I only saw about 15 minutes thanks to holiday traveling, so I won't go much more in-depth tonight. I'll try to watch it sometime soon and add some more thoughts then. But there are a few takeaways I have, even from that short a period.
Mainly, Maryland looked much more up-tempo. It's only one game, but it's also the only game Maryland's had with a (relatively) full arsenal, so it's pretty significant. The biggest change brought about by the additions of Len and Pe'Shon Howard might go beyond their talents; with an extra two bodies to play with, Turgeon looks like he's more willing to loose the horses and push the tempo. The pace seemed faster tonight than it's been most of the year, and no one reached 32 minutes (only two players reached 30) - that is, substitutions were much more common and playing time more spread out. It'll be interesting to see if this is the Terrapins' new philosophy for the long haul. It had to be, to some extent, but this was a bit more than I anticipated.
The other obvious note in the box score was how much the rest of the front court reacted to Len's addition. James Padgett was pretty much James Padgett, but Ashton Pankey had a rough go of it - only 16 minutes, 2 points, and a +/- of -10, the only Terrapin with a negative rank and a fairly substantial margin in a game Maryland won by 11. Berend Weijs saw a slight but insignificant drop in PT; he'll still get his minutes, throw in some blocks, and do everything we expect of Berend, just in 12 minutes instead of 16.
I have some other thoughts, mostly about how coming off the bench will help Nick Faust and Pe'Shon Howard's performance, but I'll save those until I can watch the rest. Until then, discuss here.