Our long, miserable, basketball-less break is finally over, as the roundball returned to action this afternoon in College Park. And the first game back was a delightful one.
Maryland hosted Delaware State on a snowy, sleepy Saturday afternoon, and after a few equally sleepy opening minutes, turned on the jets and coasted to an easy 79-50 victory. The win pushes Maryland to 11-1 on the year, their eleventh straight victory, and notches yet another comfortable win over cupcake fodder. There's something to be said, I suppose, for making easy wins as easy as they should be.
This was a game that didn't necessarily have any true star, at least that jumped out at you when you were watching the game, with almost everyone on the team showing up to play and doing just that. Only three Terrapins were in double-digits, but every scholarship player scored at least three points, with a balanced, even attack largely leading the way.
But look at the box score and you notice just how much Charles Mitchell dominated: Chuck threw down 19 points and 14 boards despite playing just 24 minutes (a team-high 24 minutes, but still: just 24 minutes). I'm not sure you ever watched him and thought he was dominating the game, but a player who can dominate quietly still dominates. And today, Chuck dominated. (I'd guess he ate pretty well over Christmas. That Georgia cooking has some magic in it.)
In fact, he dominated in the way you'd have expected Alex Len to dominate - the big Ukrainian finished with only 6 points and 2 boards, perhaps reinforcing the belief that he may not yet be mentally read to assert himself game in and game out. But luckily for Maryland, there's enough post depth to absorb that issue. Some days it'll be Shaquille Cleare stepping up, or maybe James Padgett. Today, it was Mitchell. And man, step up he did.
The first half did start slowly for Maryland, and in fact they struggled in the opening eight minutes or so, when the Hornets held multiple leads and gave the Terps trouble. But it wasn't long before Maryland was able to get out on the floor and run a little bit, which disrupted DSU's gameplan and played into the Terrapins' hands. They shot an incredible 73% from the field in the opening 20 minutes, hit their only three-point attempt, and had an impressive 13:5 turnover ratio, a well-rounded offensive performance that enabled them to go into the break with a 40-22 lead.
They had a similar performance against Stony Brook, though, before things fell apart in the second half and they had to hold off the Seawolves late. Not today: things kept on rolling, with the Terrapins actually stretching their lead and coasting throughout the second half.
There's almost nothing not to like from today's game. Maryland shot well, defended well, rebounded well, mostly took care of the ball, forced turnovers - aside from hitting three-pointers, there was nothing lacking. And seeing guys like Jake Layman and especially Mitchell show up the way they did might be the most heart-warming thing I've seen this holiday season.
Maryland's back in action on New Year's Day, when they take on IUPUI in the last warm-up game before ACC play starts. And if it goes like today's game did, the ACC season might be the most-anticipated in College Park since Dave Neal was Mayor.