Florida State 73, Maryland 71 @ Donald L. Tucker Center, Tallahassee, Fla.
There were a lot of positives to take out of what was a devastating loss for the Terps.
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Dez Wells looked like a future NBA player with his pull-up jumpers and breathtaking drives to the basket that led to a team-high 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting. His mid-range game is rare these days, but Wells even hit something that is rare for him – a 3-point shot that gave the Terps a late lead.
Maryland ran its offense the way it was designed, particularly in the second half, as Turgeon had his guards mostly walk the ball up the court to keep the turnovers to a minimum. After committing 12 turnovers in the first half, the Terps only had four in the second half.
The bench – depleted by the absence of junior point guard Pe’Shon Howard, who was back in College Park with the flu – gave the Terps a huge lift. Sophomore point guard Nick Faust, who was benched in favor of Seth Allen, had a big 4-point play to help Maryland’s second-half run. Senior guard Logan Aronhalt (11 points) would have been one of the heroes had Maryland won, and both freshman forward Charles Mitchell (10 points) and senior James Padgett (6) provided offense on a night when Alex Len (4 points) did not.
But the Terps still lost by sending the Seminoles to the free throw line 31 times (Florida State made 24) and not being able to hit some big free throws of their own, including three in a row at one point by Faust. They lost because Wells lost Florida State guard Michael Snaer through a maze of double screens – and if you listen to Wells – moving picks.
“They got away with a couple of illegal screens, but that happens and you have play through them,” Wells said. “He made a good shot.”
Asked if he thought, as Turgeon did, that the Terps executed their offense better than they have for most of the season, Wells said, “You can say all that, but if you don’t win, it really doesn’t matter.”
Where was Len?
Len began his sophomore season with a breakthrough performance against defending national champion and then No. 3 Kentucky in Brooklyn, N.Y. Playing against freshman Nerlens Noel, one of the nation’s top recruits a year ago, Len finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.
He followed up with several solid performances, scoring in double figures in nine of the next 10 games. He recently had another stretch of six straight double-figure scoring games before disappearing in the second half last Saturday at Duke.
Then came last night, when he played just nine minutes in the first half after picking up two quick fouls, and picked up his third a little more than a minute into the second half. Except for two straight baskets that helped the Terps build an 8-point lead in the second half, Len was invisible in 17 minutes.
If anything, he stood out because he looked like another tall, gawky player no better than Florida State 7-footer Boris Bojanovsky, who actually outplayed and outscored Len Wednesday night. I hope for Len’s sake there weren’t too many NBA scouts in attendance, though I did recognize a few.
Everyone in College Park, including Turgeon, believes Len will be leaving for the NBA after this season. A veteran NBA scout whose opinion I trust told me recently that Len will be a lottery pick in what many consider to be a very weak draft. He also told me Len wasn’t ready.
“Not many of them are,” the scout said.
But I have three names for Len: Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox and Jordan Williams
Smith left Maryland after his sophomore year when he was national player of the year and the No. 1 pick in the draft. Wilcox left Maryland after his sophomore year when the Terps won the NCAA championship in 2002. Williams left after his sophomore year when the Terps didn’t even make it to a tournament.
The Terps are not going to win an NCAA title and Len is not going to be the No. 1 pick.