Terrell Stoglin dropped 28 points and Sean Mosley pitched in 15 points and a generous dose of senior leadership plays as Maryland overcame spotty free throw shooting (again) to outlast Virginia Tech and earn their first win on Gary Williams Court, 73-69.
Stoglin's performance was quintessential Stoglin, which comes with all the good and bad you'd expect out of it. (In fact, we've seen more of a regression into the type of Stoglin we saw before ACC play started, which will be controversial.) Mosley's, too, was just about everything you'd expect out of him: a quiet but efficient offensive game mixed in with a bunch of plays that only Sean Mosley would make - great blocks in transition, strips to prevent easy buckets, steals leading to fast breaks, and, yes, a 5-5 performance from the stripe. James Padgett and Ashton Pankey, meanwhile, benefitted from Maryland's increasing willingness to dump the ball down low, combining for sixteen points; Pankey threw in ten boards for good measure.
Virginia Tech certainly appeared like a team down on its luck in the first half. Maryland ran out to a quick 8-2 lead, and the Hokies wouldn't get within three the rest of the half. In fact, VT didn't make a field goal for the final 6:26 of the half, allowing Maryland to stretch their margin in the closing minutes. The Terrapins entered the half with a 32-19 lead, and Tech was luckily it wasn't even greater.
Maryland would start strong to stretch the lead to 15 quickly, but Virginia Tech would answer as Dorenzo Hudson heated up from outside. The Hokies cut the lead as low as six mid-way through the half, but Maryland responded with an 8-2 run to regain some breathing room. The Terrapins struggled to put VT away, and a questionable flagrant foul call on Sean Mosley late in the game cut the lead to five. A crucial three-pointer from Terrell Stoglin and five big free throws down the stretch from Sean Mosley kept the Terrapins in control, but consistently poor defense in the final two minutes and shaky free throw shooting kept the Hokies in it. Only after Stoglin hit two from the stripe with less than five seconds to play was the game truly sealed, 73-69.
How much this win means to you probably depends on how much you like Virginia Tech. I don't think they're a very good team this year, but they're probably not quite as bad as their 1-5 conference record would indicate, either. Performance-wise there were a few troubling factors, but I'm not one to complain about a wire-to-wire win against any ACC team.
Let's begin matters with Stoglin, whose 26 points came on 21 shots; he also registered zero assists. That looks a lot like the chucker Stoglin that Mark Turgeon had so much trouble with, instead of the distributor Stoglin that had people wondering if he could become the full-time point guard. He didn't drop dimes today and looked much more for his own shot. The result was mixed: he had a number of points that could've only come from Terrell Stoglin and were utterly crucial for Maryland, but also a fair number of shots that were outside of the rhythm of Maryland's offense and hurt their momentum. Serious questions also need to be asked about his free-throw shooting, which, at 4-9, wasn't nearly good enough.
Still, Stoglin wasn't particularly notable. He scored a lot of points, many of them coming on incredible shots. He also took a lot of questionable shots and finished with five turnovers. The only real wiggle room in his game anymore comes from his assist-to-turnover ratio and the number of shots he takes. Other than that, you really know what you're getting.
I was more impressed by Mosley. The flagrant foul call on him was blatantly incorrect; Dorenzo Hudson was literally hugging him at the time, and Mosley rotated his body - didn't swing his elbows - and caught Hudson on the chin. Otherwise, Sugar Sean had one of his better showings after a series of poor performance. He was efficient offensively, knocked down open shots, and hit his free throws. I didn't love every shot he took, mind you, but they went and he's a senior so he has a bit more leeway. Meanwhile, it was his defense that was truly impressive; he had three steals and another uncredited strip that prevented a VT layup; he also had a block on a fastbreak with three minutes left that kept the lead at eight. (That said, you'd be correct to point out that the block was bookended by two Mosley turnovers. Hey, I didn't say he was perfect.)
Nice segue: while Mosley hit all five of his free throws, basically no one else on Maryland could knock down their freebies. Everyone not named Mosley finished 13-23 from the stripe, at a blistering 56% rate. I feel like a broken record on this point, but if Maryland simply knocked down free throws at an average percentage games like these would be so much easier.
The other truly noteworthy performances here came from the big men. We've lamented how little Maryland's looked inside this season, but they made it a point to get their bigs touches, especially early. That helped set the pace offensively, with guys like James Padgett and Ashton Pankey consistently coming up with big baskets. Padgett, especially, had two huge conversions in the second half to mitigate Virginia Tech runs and keep Maryland in control. Those two are developing very nicely offensively, and while they still have their flaws - Pankey's defense, for example - they're good enough scoring the ball to warrant consistent playing time and looks down low.
Speaking of the big men ... whatever happened to Alex Len? Remember when he looked so incredibly awesome? I'm convinced that core of awesomeness is still down within him somewhere, but he's really struggling to unlock it. He played only 13 minutes today, and only five in the second half; it was clear that Padgett and Pankey were Turgeon's preferences, despite the huge size advantage Len would've given them. And I can't blame him: Olexiy just doesn't look very good anymore. He's getting pushed around down low, he's struggling to hold onto the ball, he's tentative on the block, and he's not asserting his will. At times I feel like he's forgotten that he's five inches taller than everyone else on the floor.
Len needs to continue to get playing time, and he will. He still needs time to get used to the ACC game and develop his game both mentally and physically, and once that happens he'll have all-ACC potential. But for those who thought he'd be an instant impact player, well, it doesn't really look like it.
Two other individual notes: Nick Faust looked awesome in the first half and has clearly figured out how to effectively utilize his tools, but he was a bit invisible in the second. Pe'Shon Howard was quieter than he's been, but also better. He finished with only three points on four shots, but he also had three assists and no turnovers. I'm still not in love with him as a floor general dictating tempo (Mosley and Stoglin did a better job of that, in fact), but this was much better than what we've seen from him lately, I thought, and a step in the right direction.
As a team, I really did like the emphasis on post players. That's a ready-made safety valve for this offense, especially when things start to lean too heavily on Stoglin, and they don't look down there enough. Sure, most ACC teams aren't as poor as VT is in the post, but what we saw here should've been enough to justify trying it against tougher opposition. Stoglin started to dominate the ball again in the second half, and I wasn't in love with that, but by and large Maryland looked to push the ball more in transition and dump the ball down to the post more. I'd love to see continuing emphasis on those two points.
Defensively, it was a pretty mixed bag. Things were solid in the first half; sure, VT missed some open layups, but you don't hold a team to 19 points on sheer luck. Fact of the matter was that VT was forced to work for their shots, especially in the halfcourt, and could rarely find openings. Second half, that changed, and pretty drastically, especially down the stretch. In the final few minutes it got to a point where VT would simply come down the floor and find either an open layup or an open shooter on the wing. I'm guessing Turgeon didn't want his guys to foul, but that just wasn't good enough. There needed to be more effort.
All things told, it was hardly a perfect performance, but if the bigs are for real then things will get easier. I'm not expecting a massive performance like this out of Mosley every game - we've seen that fail before - but end of the day, it was a win and not a terrible showing to go with it. Maryland's back to .500 in the ACC and they head into a winnable but tough game at Miami. More on that throughout the week. For now, appreciate Mosley's big game while you still can.