Diamond Stone started Maryland's first two games of the season, but a poor game against Georgetown on Tuesday landed him on the bench to start Friday's game against Rider. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has remarked before about how much it means to the five-star freshman that he start games – more, generally, than other players. But Stone did not start Friday.
"I'd like to think he's a competitor, and he responded and responded the right way, and that's what you want as a coach - him to respond the right way," Turgeon said. "And I thought he did that in the second half."
Stone emerged with a vengeance from Maryland's locker room after halftime. He didn't start the half, but he entered after 3 minutes and change had elapsed, and Maryland had fallen behind by 12 points, 41-29.
"I just figured that I'd just bring a spark," Stone said.
That's when Stone got to work. He scored on an up-and-under layup with 15:40 left, then forced a steal on Rider's counter down the court that set up a Jake Layman basket. Then he had a block, and then this put-back dunk in transition:
Stone scored 6 more points in the next 11 minutes, pacing Maryland on its comeback trail. He had 3 offensive rebounds in the half, leading directly to 7 points in total. By the end of the half, he'd have added 10 of his 12 points.
The Broncs tried to check him, mostly with 6'7 forward Kahlil Thomas, who scored 14 points on offense but wasn't a physical match defensively for the 6'11 Stone. The Broncs tried to limit Stone with a zone defense, too, and that didn't work much better, even as the rest of Maryland's team at times struggled to probe against it.
"I thought Diamond was terrific against the zone," Turgeon said. "Kind of big-boy'd them."
Stone described a simple approach that led to his success.
"Just posting hard and putting my hands up and just asking for the ball," he said. "The guards, they threw it to me, and I made plays."
Maryland scored 16 second-chance points in the final 20 minutes. The Terrapins scored a robust 1.24 points per possession in the half, despite shooting a pedestrian 45 percent from the field. Stone and Jake Layman (who had 3 offensive boards in the half and 6 for the game) extended trip after trip, and Maryland's army of blue-chip players made good on second chances. It's a good thing, or else Maryland was headed to a dark place.
"When you're down, you're definitely a little more aggressive, which is a bad thing," Layman said when it was over. "For this team, we need to be that aggressive all the time. But I think once we did get down, we started to crash the boards more and started to get some offensive rebounds and some put-backs and kind of went on a run."
Maryland only hit 23 field goals all night, with much of its production (14 of 65 points) coming via the foul line. Stone didn't find his way to the stripe at all, instead bruising his way through Rider's front line and scoring every single one of his 12 points inside the paint, on 6-of-7 shooting. It was an old-school run of dominance for one of Maryland's newest players.
And after being humbled on the court for the first time in a long time against Georgetown 7-footer Bradley Hayes on Tuesday, Stone was the key cog in saving Maryland three nights later.
"It's just part of the process. He didn't ask to be ranked so high coming out of high school," Turgeon said. "He just was, so that puts more pressure on the kid. But he can handle it. He's a tough kid."