COLLEGE PARK — Maryland coach Mark Turgeon didn’t seem to mind that his Terps missed a dozen 3-point shots and nearly as many free throws Tuesday night at Comcast Center. He even gave credit to Lafayette for hanging in with there only long-range shooting and surprisingly tenacious zone defense that shut down sophomore center Alex Len until early in the second half.
The Terps won, 83-74, and Turgeon, who gained a reputation in his first season at Maryland for rarely being satisfied, seemed content despite the fact that a pesky bunch of jump shooters – and shot-blockers – from the little Patriot League hung around against an ACC team despite playing without their top scorer.
“I thought we really played well in stretches,” Turgeon said. “I thought Lafayette was great – not good but great. Very well coached.We got it to 19 and I subbed (out his entire starting lineup) and it got to 11 in three possessions, and there was a lot of fight in them throughout the game…We didn’t make a jump shot and missed a lot free throws (shooting 12 of 22) and we still scored 83 points. So we’re doing something right, sharing the ball.”
Maryland (3-1) had five players in double figures: Len, who only had three points and took just two shots in the opening half, the first with 5:33 to play before halftime, finished with a team-high 16 points, to go along with eight rebounds. Senior forward James Padgett helped the Terps open up a 10-point halftime lead (40-30) by scoring nine of his 14 points before halftime.But it was the play of sophomore guard Nick Faust, who has struggled mightily with his outside shot this season, who epitomized Maryland’s play against the Leopards. Unable to hit his shot early, Faust (City) used his superior athleticism to drive to the basket. He finished with 13 points and eight rebounds and made 5 of his 6 free throws.
“He took the first 3 in the corner and I said, ‘Nick don’t settle for a 3’ and I thought he did a great job driving it,” Turgeon said.
So did sophomore guard Dez Wells, who overcame his own slow start (two points in the first half) to finish with 11 points and six rebounds. Freshman forward Charles Mitchell added 12 points and five rebounds off the bench. The strong inside play – the Terps outscored their smaller opponent 50-12 in the pain – overcame some ridiculously tough shooting by the Leopards.
Lafayette finished the game 15 of 32 from 3-point range, including six of 11 for sophomore guard Seth Hinrichs, who led the Leopards with 20 points. Not only did Lafayette hit its outside shots, it also had two more blocked shots (5-3) than the much bigger opponents. But it was the jump shooting – particularly on quick-release pull-up jumpers – that seemed to keep the Terps off balance.
“We must have run five or different defenses off ball screens defenses just trying to confuse them and help us, we were good in some of them, not so good in others,” Turgeon said.
Asked when he last saw a team shoot as many pull-up jump shots off screens, Wells smiled.
“Since high school when teams would run that Princeton offense,” Wells said. “It comes with the game, we have to guard players who make shots. My hats off to them, they’re a really good team.”
Leading by as many as 19 points in the first half and by 17, 69-52, with 5:21 remaining, Turgeon subbed out his entire starting lineup – something he learned from Roy Williams, who learned it from North Carolina coaching legend Dean Smith – and put in a mostly inexperienced bunch of freshmen and sophomores.
The result was 13-4 run by Lafayette (1-4), which despite playing without leading scorer Dan Trist (47 points in his first two games before spraining a foot) still made things interesting down the stretch. But the Terps, unlike last year, never allowed the Leopards to get it closer and with the help of a rare 3-point shot by junior guard Pe’Shon Howard and two layups by Wells helped the Terps keep a safe distance.
“We got adjusted to the zone, that was the first time we played a team with a zone,” Wells said. “I’m pretty sure a lot of other teams will start playing zone. We just wanted to be patient…just make the extra pass. Once one person was open, another person would be open, once we drove the ball. It worked pretty well in the second half.”