Terrell Stoglin scored 20 points off the bench(!) and Ashton Pankey and James Padgett combined for another 20 as Maryland held off a Wake Forest rally to grab its first ACC win of the season, 70-64. The Terrapins, who led by as many as 18 in the first half before a disappointing second stanza, rise to 11-4 on the year and 1-1 in the ACC.
The obvious storyline here probably the continuing inconsistent play we're seeing from the Terrapins half-to-half: they looked like world-beaters in the first and took a 16-point lead into the break, and then looked flat and unfocused in the second as they were outscored by 10, with the lead shrinking as low as three. It's clear that Maryland, still a largely young and inexperienced team, is still working on playing a forty-minute game, but they better figure it out soon.
By the way, Maryland's margin in the first half since the return of Pe'Shon Howard and Alex Len? +43. In the second half? -11. Yeah.
So, what really causes that breakdown? In a single game, like tonight, it could be explained away as an aberration. Maryland's offense slowed down significantly, more or less to a crawl, but were the shots they were getting really worse? In some instances, yes, but Terrell Stoglin missed a handful of open threes, for example. And I don't think that's truly consistent with what you normally expect out of him.
But over five games, it's become pretty clear that Maryland isn't a second-half team. It may have to do with conditioning (Paul Ricci, where are you?), though depth should no longer be an issue; just as likely, it could be a mindset issue, where Maryland works up a lead or, in the case of N.C. State, is in a game, before letting their guard down. Whatever it is, it isn't good.
That said, it's better to look fantastic in one half and suck in the other than suck in both halves. So let's starting talking about the good: namely, a first half performance where Maryland looked as good as they have all year. Terrell Stoglin was in a crazy zone, Ashton Pankey and James Padgett were battling down low, and the mythical secondary scorer showed in the form of Sean Mosley. The defense was solid and consistent, not allowing easy buckets and occasionally leading to run-outs at the other end. All things good.
Also worth noting here is offensive rebounding, an area Maryland dominated. They finished with 18 offensive rebounds, and that was a huge role in their offensive efficiency. This slowed down a bit in the second half, but not too much. I thought Maryland really needed to win the boards to win the game, and they did both.
It's the times like tonight's first half when you really think that Maryland could do some serious damage in the ACC. And they can. Maybe not on a wide scale, but the team in the first half was capable of beating just about every team in the conference, save North Carolina. They just need to show up for an entire game.
What we saw in the second half, by comparison, was truly disconcerting. Stoglin wasn't hitting, and if Stoglin isn't hitting, ain't nobody hitting. Here's a nice stat: Maryland had about a six-and-a-half minute stretch without a field goal in the second half. Stoglin is the go-to guy, but there's really no other offense after him - Sean Mosley had to sit for much of that stretch, Alex Len isn't an offensive threat yet, and so Maryland had to rely on getting garbage buckets. That's not a great source of offense.
Things were just as bad defensively, mind you - in fact, probably worse. Some of that had to do with giving up easy run-outs due to turnovers or missed shots, and just as much had to do with trouble staying in front of their assignments in man-to-man, particularly whoever was guarding Tony Chennault. But we also saw some disturbing trends re-emerge here. Poor rotation, less-dedicated close-outs (seriously, whose idea was it to put Padgett on Travis McKie?), and lazier box-outs - compare three offensive rebounds in the first half to six in the second. And that's probably almost entirely due to things like focus and effort.
Still, by and large I don't think we learned too terribly much about this team from this game, save the reinforcement of their poor second-half play. Otherwise, we knew they struggle with occasional scoreless streaks; we knew they struggled with free throws; we knew they're occasionally vulnerable on defense. It's not good and these will limit their ceiling, but these things are really priced into the stock right now.
Individually, the real standout performances had to be James Padgett and Sean Mosley. Much like the team in general, we know Padge's faults - and they are many - and we saw a lot of them today. But the good things - in particular his hustle and offensive rebounding - about him are so endearing that it's tough to truly dislike him. He did more or less what he always does, with one difference: he knocked down 7 of 9 from the free throw line, easily a much better performance than we're used to. (Four of them came in the final two minutes, by the way.) That transforms a "normal, 6 and 8 Padgett performance" into a "really good 11 and 8 Padgett performance."
As for Mosley, he actually fouled out today, though errantly (his final foul should've been charged on Mychal Parker). He'll need to watch his foul trouble from here on out, because I think he's becoming crucial to the team, and to the offense. Outside of Stoglin, Sugar Sean is the only guy the offense can rely on to create his own shot (though not always in the prettiest of ways) or hit down an open look off a set play. That he does this in addition to those senior leader moments, fighting for loose balls and getting a big put-back at a crucial time, makes it all the sweeter. Mosley may never be what we wanted him to be, but he's still a huge part of where this team will be this year.
Ashton Pankey and Mychal Parker both looked good, to boot. Pankey did some hard work on the offensive glass of his own, and flashed his fantastic touch around the rim. He could've used more playing time for my taste, but Padgett's production probably kept him off the floor. Parker, meanwhile, continues to flash moments of brilliance, like a follow block on the break that changed momentum in the final minutes. It looks like he's starting to figure out how to use his athleticism, which he has in bunches. I still think he looks the part as much as, if not more than, anyone else on the roster. I didn't see anything from him today to stem the tide of support he's built up in recent games.
In the less-good column, I think we have to start with Alex Len. And not in a negative way - I don't think he's underperforming per se, but this is just a reminder that he's still a freshman and still learning. His first half statline was no points and one board, which is obviously not good enough, and he only finished with 5 and 2. He didn't have a height advantage in this game with Wake Forest possessing trees of their own, and their trees were more experienced and physically stronger. We saw that take its toll all game long. (Not that there was no good: Len might be the best interior passer since ... I don't know, I don't really keep track of interior passers. But he's really good at the bounce pass to a cutter.)
Nor was I enamored with Pe'Shon Howard, who had only a single point. His 5:2 assist to turnover ratio was good, but his 0-5 shooting from the field wasn't. Nor was the fact that he was on the floor during that second-half slowdown. If Maryland's going to dedicate a spot on the floor to someone who more or less can't score, that needs to be the guy who can be the traffic director when the offense slows down. That wasn't Pe' tonight. That's what he needs to be. Although I'd be remiss if I didn't mention his two fantastic defensive plays down the stretch, both resulting in steals. If those two don't come through, Maryland probably doesn't win.
And, of course, Nick Faust, though only in the sense that Len is also in this column. As soon as he figures out that he shouldn't shoot and should instead focus on driving the lane (while not falling away from Ty Walker) he'll be fine. I was actually really impressed by what he brought on the glass and the other areas of the game, even though he did give up an open three in the corner; offensively, he's still working to find his niche. He's only a freshman and I'd preach patience.
A quick note on Terrell Stoglin: no, he didn't start. I'm not particularly surprised by it. Turgeon had threatened him with it before and it was only a matter of time before the breakdown finally happened and Stoglin started off on the bench. No, it didn't have any material bearing on the game: Stoglin played starter minutes, started the second half, and was on the floor when he needed to be. I have no worries, even if he doesn't start another game the rest of the year. I have no doubt he'll be getting his.
As we've been saying all year, a win's a win, and as long as building is being done toward's next year then it's all gravy right now. This team has crazy potential, as the first half showed. It'll be frustrating to sit through all the lackluster second halves and offensive slowdowns, but at the end of the day, they're 1-1 in the conference. That's about what I expected, and it's tough to complain about it.