COLLEGE PARK -- Time can never really be on the side of Maryland's Ryan Randle, not with proven players Lonny Baxter, Chris Wilcox and reserve Tahj Holden already claiming most of the frontcourt minutes that coach Gary Williams parcels out.
But like a relief pitcher, short bursts of exposure work well for Randle, who played a key role in yesterday's 89-73 victory over North Carolina State.
From Duncanville, Texas, by way of Allegany Community College in Cumberland, the 6-foot-9 junior forward entered the game midway in the second half, needing to spell Baxter and Wilcox, who had three and four fouls, respectively.
Over the next six minutes, Randle responded by contributing seven points, a pair of rebounds and a steal as the third-ranked Terps turned a two-point deficit into a 75-62 lead with four minutes left.
"Ryan Randle really helped when we were in some foul trouble with Lonny and Chris," Williams said. "In the second half, he was quick getting to balls, which really helped us."
The performance continued a trend in which Randle operates rarely but in a nonetheless valuable manner. Per 40 minutes, he's averaging 18.4 points and 16.1 rebounds. In the team's previous game against Virginia, he provided four points and three rebounds in three minutes, which may have prevented a loss, according to Williams.
Such is life for Randle, who has become part of the answer to questions about Maryland's depth after the loss of Terence Morris, Danny Miller and Mike Mardesich following last season. Along with Holden and guard Drew Nicholas, Randle's emergence means the team continues to have a capable backup for every position on the court.
"I just wanted to play defense and rebound the basketball," Randle said. "I just look at what everyone else is doing and ask Coach what he wants, that's how I get myself prepared."
He'd played seven first-half minutes to no great effect, but made an immediate impact when he entered with 10:10 left in the game, rebounding a missed Juan Dixon jumper and then getting to the line to cut N.C. State's lead to 57-56.
Randle then grabbed another offensive rebound and followed with a made layup before his steal -- with 7:27 left -- led to a Byron Mouton fadeaway as part of a 10-0 run that ended the Wolfpack threat.
"He just comes in, gives his all and makes great plays for us," Baxter said. "That's what we need for him coming off the bench."
For now, Randle seems content with his role -- "We take a lot of pride in the black team," he said, referring to the term for reserves who play the starters in practice - but it is merely a prelude to bigger things for him.
When this season ends, Baxter will be gone, meaning more opportunity on the horizon. "I told him," Williams said, "next year he can play as many minutes as he wants."
Next for Terps
Opponent: North Carolina
Site: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C.
When: Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)