As Maryland coach Mark Turgeon searched for positives in his team's 61-46 win over South Carolina State on Saturday, he couldn't hide his distaste at what he had just watched.
"It wasn't really a fun game to be a part of, to be honest with you," Turgeon said. "We didn't make shots, shots we've been making."
In an increasingly familiar story at Comcast Center, it was hard to pinpoint a single hero in Maryland's victory.
Ten players scored, only one in double figures, as the Terps (8-1) secured their eighth straight victory against another overmatched opponent. The winning streak is the program's longest since the 2006-07 season.
It wasn't Maryland's prettiest win, but the Terps played smothering interior defense, racked up a healthy rebound advantage and spread the wealth on offense. In other words, they did exactly what they've done for most of the season.
Sophomore Dez Wells said it was a good experience for the young team to fight through a sluggish game.
"I could see that for some of my teammates, it was a little frustrating," Wells said. "But you know, we've just got to play through it. We did well. We didn't score as many points as we wanted to, but we still defended well, rebounded well, shot free throws better."
Turgeon said the Terps had difficulty adjusting to South Carolina State's slow pace. "We tried to speed them up and we just couldn't do it," he said.
Sophomore center Alex Len led Maryland with 13 points. Freshman center Shaquille Cleare added eight points and eight rebounds.
The win over South Carolina State (4-5) was the second in a run of six straight home games against non-conference opponents. Turgeon has used the stretch to experiment with various combinations in a rotation that includes four freshmen and two transfers playing significant minutes.
On Saturday, he started senior 3-point specialist Logan Aronhalt and bruising freshman forward Charles Mitchell for the first time and brought Wells, his second-leading scorer, and senior James Padgett off the bench.
"What I'd like is to get five, six, seven guys I can count on every night to play well," Turgeon said, indicating that we will continue to juggle his lineup as he prepares for conference play.
Mitchell disappointed in his first start with two quick turnovers and several defensive mistakes.
Turgeon said the freshman wasn't ready to play, and he ended up limiting Mitchell to a season-low 8 minutes.
The lineup tinkering is in part a sign of his confidence in the team's emotional maturity, Turgeon has said previously. Maryland has shared the ball all season, with eight players averaging at least five points per game heading into Saturday.
The Terps continued to show their unselfishness against South Carolina State, with 16 of the team's 19 field goals coming off assists.
"I think we're trying to do the right thing, though we shot it a little quickly in the first half," Turgeon said. "Sixteen assists would have been a high last year, so 16 assists on 19 buckets, that's pretty good for us."
Turgeon, nonetheless, looked annoyed with his team for much of the game.
The Terps established an early lead and held it against the Bulldogs. But they could not establish the consistent offensive flow they had found in scoring a season-high 100 points Wednesday against UMES. Maryland particularly struggled from the outside, shooting only 5-for-22 on 3-pointers.
It was not a game filled with offensive highlights, though Wells drew roars from the announced crowd of 12,052 with a pair of swooping alley-oop dunks.
The Terps played more effectively on defense, using their size to stymie South Carolina State in the paint and holding the Bulldogs to 17-for-53 shooting overall.
"We must have done something right," Turgeon said, inspecting the Bulldogs' shooting numbers.
The Terps also limited their turnovers to 11 after averaging more than 15 per game so far this season.
Freshman guard Seth Allen said Turgeon has ordered players to do five push-ups every time they turn the ball over in practice.
"You learn to take care of the ball if you don't want to do push-ups," he said. "Five push-ups is hard when you're tired."
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