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Turgeon hopes to use depth after shortening his bench in win over Georgetown

Maryland guard Jaylen Brantley drives the ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball exhibition game against Southern New Hampshire, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, in College Park, Md.
Maryland guard Jaylen Brantley drives the ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball exhibition game against Southern New Hampshire, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, in College Park, Md. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

COLLEGE PARK — Shortly after the Georgetown game ended Tuesday night at Xfinity Center, Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon talked about using his bench more going forward.

After all the preseason talk about the Terps' depth, four of their five starters played more than 30 minutes each in No. 3 Maryland's come-from-behind, down-to-the-wire 75-71 win over the Hoyas.

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Senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon played 37 minutes, sophomore point guard Melo Trimble was on the court for 34, senior forward Jake Layman went for 32 and junior forward Robert Carter Jr. was in for 31.

Only foul trouble to senior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (26) and senior center Bradley Hayes (25) prevented the Hoyas from playing all five of their starters at least 30 minutes.

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In reality, Georgetown isn't as deep as Maryland and needed its starters on the court.

In that game, at least, so did Turgeon.

Here's the question: Except for the center position, are the Terps as deep as Turgeon thought and hoped they would be? Turgeon conceded that part of the issue is the confidence he has in his reserves, particularly in the backcourt.

"It really comes down to Jaylen [Brantley] or Varun [Ram], " Turgeon said Thursday. "That's my only options perimeter-wise, especially if I have to go small late in the game. Big guy-wise, it's just hard to get them all in, they're all good players.

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"Checko [sophomore center Michal Cekovsky] is playing at a high level, especially on the defensive end, Damonte [Dodd] we all have confidence in. … Trying to find their minutes is really the most difficult thing I have to do. I just have to have the guts enough to play my bench on the perimeter. If I do that we'll be fine."

Sophomore wing Jared Nickens has played 23 minutes in each game, including the last 6 ½ against Georgetown when Turgeon went to a smaller lineup that featured Carter at center. Dodd and Cekovsky played 14 minutes each.

The season-ending knee injury to sophomore shooting guard Dion Wiley has impacted Turgeon's rotation, but so has the development of Brantley as a reliable and productive point guard who can give Trimble a break.

Turgeon did it in the season-opening win over Mount St. Mary's, playing Trimble only 25 minutes. It was the lowest figure since his first game at Maryland as a freshman, when he played just 22 against Wagner.

Brantley, who came to Maryland after one season at Odessa Community College in Texas, played 16 minutes in the opener, getting three rebounds and an assist, but not taking a single shot and missing his only free throw. He played just one minute, with no statistics, against Georgetown.

"He really hasn't had a chance in the games, to be honest with you," Turgeon said of the 5-foot-10 sophomore. "He played a little bit against Mount St. Mary's, played pretty well. It's just getting used to the speed of the game and just how important each possession is, things like that. ...

"It's a big jump from junior college ball to Georgetown on ESPN in front of that environment. I anticipate him playing a little bit more on Friday night."

Brantley had a reputation for being a terrific shooter as a high school player and once hit 6 of 9 3-pointers in an Amateur Athletic Union championship game on a team that featured future NBA lottery pick Nerlens Noel as well as Iowa State star Georges Niang and Layman.

Turgeon seems unconcerned about whether Brantley will eventually contribute to a nationally ranked team.

"He has a great feel, he can really shoot it," Turgeon said. "He made the pass to Jake for lob in the Mount St. Mary's game, no one else on our team can make that pass. He's one of those guys who's used to playing with better players around him and so this team kind of fits his [game]. I've got to get him in there more and get him more comfortable."

Brantley said it just a matter of showing in practice what he can do going up against a player like Trimble, who was voted Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year and is considered one of the top players in the country.

"I think me playing hard in practice and just getting better every day, Coach Turgeon will get more trust in me, and will be allowed to play me in a game like Tuesday," Brantley said. "I just feel with me working hard, my opportunity will come. With Dion being hurt it's given me a great opportunity to show I can play with the rest of the guys."

Still, Brantley admits that watching as he did Tuesday has been an adjustment in itself.

"This is actually a lot different than my whole life," he said. "AAU, I was always the guy [at point guard], with Jake on my team. In high school, I was always the main person. In JUCO, I played like 30 minutes a game. But this is probably the best team I've been on in terms of talent. Me being a role player is fine with me because I just want to win at the end of the day."

Brantley also understands his value when it comes to added depth for the Terps.

"I think it's good because the deeper we are, the fresher our legs are," Brantley said. "We've got a lot of great players on the wing so however Turgeon is going to do the minutes and stuff, I'm sure it will be fine. One game might be somebody's night, the next game it might be somebody else's. You've just got to stay ready."

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