Carroll County Times

Maryland: Depth key for Terps without Allen

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland made it into late March without any of its players missing time because of injury.

Things changed Sunday, when the Terrapins were preparing for tonight's NIT quarterfinal against Alabama. That's when guard Seth Allen suffered a broken hand that coach Mark Turgeon said will sideline the freshman for the rest of the year.

Allen is fourth on the team with 7.8 points per game and second in steals with 36. He had 15 points in Maryland's first-round win over Niagara, then scored 13 to help the Terrapins rally to beat Denver last Thursday.

Turgeon said Allen broke a bone in his left hand, his shooting hand, playing defense during the beginning of Sunday's practice.

"I feel bad for Seth because he's been really playing well," said Turgeon, whose Terps visit the Crimson Tide tonight at 7:30. "It's a blow to us, a big blow to us ... but it just gives other guys opportunities."

Turgeon was referring to Maryland's depth, a big reason why the Terrapins (24-12) have been able to stay fresh during their recent stretch of five games in eight days. Allen has been thriving in his role as one of Maryland's top reserves. Now that spot is up for grabs.

"We're fine," sophomore guard Nick Faust said. "I think we're mature enough to move on."

Turgeon said Allen's absence could give more minutes to his frontcourt players - freshmen Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare, and senior James Padgett - to try and counter Alabama's usual four-guard set. Or, the Terrapins might go back to their five-guard lineup that Turgeon inserted against Denver in the second half, the one that helped the Terps put together a 24-3 run to get past the Pioneers.

"I didn't know Seth was going to get hurt, but I just felt like for us to win this tournament, the big guys were going to be important," Turgeon said. "I wanted them to know that. It hasn't been a lot of fun for them sitting over there these last five games or so. They're ready, they're fresh, and I know they're excited about playing."

Junior guard Trevor Releford leads Alabama in scoring with 15.1 points per game, with sophomore guard Trevor Lacey at 11.5 and fellow sophomore Rodney Cooper at 10.1 But the Crimson Tide can get big thanks to Cooper, at 6-foot-6, and 7-foot junior reserve Moussa Gueye (1.5 blocks per game).

Alabama is 17-3 at home this season, a record the Terps were well aware of as they came off the practice court Monday. Beating the Crimson Tide means a trip to Madison Square Garden and the NIT semifinals next week.

"If we want to get to New York, which is the motivation behind this tournament," the coach said, "we've got to get a road win. I just want us to play well."

Same goes for Turgeon's players, who said they'll miss Allen but feel confident they can withstand his absence.

Some of it has to do with that depth - nine players average double-digit minutes per game - but for the most part the Terrapins understand what's at stake at this point of the season.

"I'm ready to get in there, ready to start playing," said sophomore Dez Wells, who leads Maryland in scoring with 13.2 points per game. "I've got a lot more [left]."

Wells earned a spot on the ACC all-tournament team two weeks ago, and he's averaging 17.3 points per game away from home.

Wells' field-goal percentage is at 56.4 percent in his last nine games, and when he gets to the foul line he's been converting (18 for 20 in his last four games).

Wells' recent play seems to indicate his realization that Maryland is poised to finish the season strong, even without one of its regulars on the court.

"It's just a great feeling to be here with these guys at this moment, to be able to play for something big like the NIT," Wells said. "I'm just excited for my guys and the chance to play for a national championship. It's not the NCAA, but it still means a lot to us."