Within the last year, Seth Allen has broken bones in his left hand and left foot. Before that, he broke the same hand during his senior year of high school. And then there were the two plates and 24 screws inserted in his left elbow as the result of a 2007 bicycle accident that left a 7-inch scar winding down the underside of his forearm.
Unfortunate as his history has been, the setbacks have toughened the Maryland point guard's psyche and taught him about the hard work required for a speedy recovery. Since returning five weeks ago from his most recent injury — the metatarsal fracture in his left foot – the sophomore has played himself back into game shape and is again demonstrating his sizable value to the team. The Terps are 4-1 in games in which Allen scores in double figures, and 2-3 when he does not.
Maryland (13-9, 5-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) will likely need a productive outing from Allen if it is to win the final regular-season game in its 60-year ACC series against North Carolina (14-7, 4-4) on Tuesday night in Chapel Hill, N.C.
It's a history that spans 178 games, dating back 30 years before the formation of the ACC when both schools were members of the Southern Conference. North Carolina coach Roy Williams on Monday bemoaned the end of the rivalry, in which the Tar Heels have won the last seven meetings. Maryland begins play in the Big Ten next season.
"I still think of Maryland as an ACC school and I'll always think that way," Williams told reporters Monday during the ACC coaches' teleconference. "I hate to see them leaving, but their administration made a decision that they think is best for their school."
The Tar Heels — who lead the series 121-57 — haven't lost to Maryland at home since 2008.
Tuesday night's game poses a special test for Allen because of North Carolina's strategy of employing fast breaks at every opportunity. Allen was admittedly not in peak condition when he returned against Tulsa on Dec. 29. But he played his best game of the season on Saturday, scoring 16 points with a season-high seven assists in Saturday's 80-60 victory at Virginia Tech.
"I've been playing 30-minutes plus and I've been feeling great out there," Allen said Monday. "I haven't really been that gassed. But (Tuesday) will be a test because they run a lot."
Maryland has lost 18 of 26 games at the Smith Center. But the Terps have more wins at the arena than any other North Carolina opponent except Duke, which has 13.
Allen's return has aided the Terps in multiple ways. He is one of the few Terps — along with team leader Dez Wells — possessing the ability to break down a defense off the dribble. Against the Hokies, Allen said Maryland's offensive positioning made his job easier. "We really spread the floor out more. I'm getting in the paint more because its so spaced out," he said.
Before Allen's return, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was concerned that Wells and forward Jake Layman were playing too many minutes. That's not the case now. Turgeon said Allen's presence allows him to pull players from games after mental errors because he has a deep enough bench to provide a quality substitute.
"Just having Seth out there when he was not 100 percent gave us confidence," Turgeon said. "Now that he's getting closer, we're much more confident as a team and a coaching staff."
Allen, Turgeon said, is "not feeling sorry for himself that he missed so much basketball."
Fans may not realize that Allen is naturally right-handed. He eats and writes with his right hand and kicks a soccer ball right-footed. But he shoots a basketball with his left hand.
When the left hand was broken, Allen practiced informally with the other one.
"You can't really dwell on (injuries) because what happens happens," Allen said. "God has a plan for everybody."
Allen considers North Carolina's Smith Center — not Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Terps play Feb. 15 — the toughest environment in which to play in the ACC.
"North Carolina, without question, because it's louder than Duke," Allen said. "Duke is small — they've got the (Cameron) Crazies over there sticking their hands out. But North Carolina is just really loud."
Turgeon seems to have a fondness not only for Williams — a mentor who once hired him as a Kansas assistant — but for the ACC. The Sun reported in November that he had initially opposed the move to the Big Ten but is on board now.
Turgeon said Monday that Maryland-North Carolina is "a chapter that's going to end" but that other rivalries will eventually take its place.
"Coming off the Duke-Syracuse game the other night, there's new rivalries that can be born," Turgeonsaid. "So we're going to lose a great rivalry here with North Carolina but I'm sure we're going to have a few good ones in the future."
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