COLLEGE PARK, Md. (CBSDC) — After Alex Len put-back Pe’Shon Howard’s missed runner in the lane — or if you believe the junior point guard, his alley oop pass — pandemonium broke loose as the clock hit all zeroes and the students rushed the court to congratulate the Terrapins on their first high-profile victory of the year. Maryland students had been longing for a moment like this as they haven’t beaten a ranked opponent since Greivis Vasquez and Landon Milbourne’s senior night against Duke.
While that’s the longest such stretch for the Maryland program since the early 1970’s, was rushing the court necessary? I don’t think so. I get that most underclassmen haven’t seen a big win from the program in their time on campus, but this wasn’t a rival, it wasn’t a top-five team, and possibly most damning of all, the Terps were favored!
“We haven’t won a big game since Greivis [Vasquez] was here and I didn’t come here to be mediocre. I don’t think the players came here to be mediocre,” Turgeon said. He continued, “I told them, ‘I came here to become something much bigger than myself’ — Maryland basketball, storied program — and I came here to do great things, and we haven’t done a lot of great things since I came here.”
This storming the court business is only an issue because the game was so utterly forgettable until the final thirty seconds. Maryland blew a large first half lead, floundered for twenty minutes and invited North Carolina State to win the game, they couldn’t and gave Maryland the last chance. The Terps took advantage of the chance and stole the game from the Wolfpack.
Alex Len struggled for service into the post, but made plays when he had to and made them down the stretch and in crunch time. Len finished with just ten points, six rebounds and a block, but his impact was more than just the numbers would suggest. While the Terrapins were bombing away from behind the arc, Alex Len was doing the dirty work underneath getting (and tipping out opportunities) for offensive rebounds.
In just his second start of the year freshman Shaquille Cleare did not disappoint after he was unable to start against Miami (Fl.) due to back spasms. Cleare’s superior strength helped in the early going as he had four of Maryland’s first ten points as the Terps opened a 10-0 run to start the game.
The Terps couldn’t sustain that early success, and one of the big issues that plagued them the rest of the night was a familiar one — point guard play. While the team got out to a hot start with Nick Faust running the point, Faust ceded control to Pe’Shon Howard, and later Seth Allen, to mixed results. While Howard did score his first seven points in conference play (in four games), he struggled from the floor (3-for-9, and 1-for-4 from 3) and with his confidence all night.
Howard routinely looked unsure when he entered the lane, only to pull the ball out behind the arc and reset. A couple of times he had opportunities to feed the ball inside to Alex Len, but shook Len off while he was posting up and moved the ball around the perimeter. His confidence was addressed by coach Mark Turgeon before the game and he was told to find his confidence because no one would find it for him. Tonight was a step in the right direction for Howard, and the rest of the Terps.
One issue that was revealed this evening in the post-game press conference was coach Turgeon’s disappointment in the team coming out of timeout’s. He mentioned the team was “0-for-timeouts” and struggled consistently to run the correct play, even on the final play.
“There wasn’t one timeout they did what I asked, not one, and it’s frustrating,” Turgeon continued,”It’s where we are, guys.”
Regardless of the lack of execution, the Terrapins were able to get a win over a top-15 team at home. For a team that was in desperate need of a win after starting 1-2 in the ACC, they’ll take the win any way they can get it. Up next for Maryland is a big road test against the Tar Heels of North Carolina. UNC may be unranked, but they have a ton of talent to pull off the win.
Follow Brendan Darr on twitter: @BrendanDarr