COLLEGE PARK — One of Mark Turgeon's biggest concerns as his Maryland men's basketball team struggled on the road at Ohio State and Indiana was its lack of production – and at times effort – from the big men.
Much as he has done since Alex Len left College Park following his sophomore year in 2013, Turgeon has gone with a center-by-committee approach, which grew from Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky earlier in the season to include Jon Graham and, at times, Evan Smotrycz.
Turgeon yanked Dodd less than a minute into Wednesday's game against Penn State after the 6-foot-11 sophomore didn't rotate defensively on the first possession, resulting in an easy baseline jumper for the Nittany Lions.
As things turned out for the 17th-ranked Terps, it proved to be a fortuitous gaffe. Turgeon subbed in Graham, who scored two early baskets against his former team and went on to have the best offensive game of his college career.
The 6-8, 225-pound senior finished with 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting in Maryland's 64-58 win.
The early hook also helped Dodd – eventually. After nearly disappearing in recent weeks while dealing with a knee injury, Dodd was more active in the final minutes than he has been.
Dodd took one of freshman guard Melo Trimble's career-high eight assists for a dunk, got fouled on another dunk attempt (hitting one of two free throws) and was disruptive at the defensive end.
"I thought Damonte looked like Damonte out there," Turgeon said. "He was affecting shots, rebounding, really good on ball screen defense. I thought Jon and Damonte did a pretty good job [on ball-screen defense]."
Considering that his previous career-high was 10 points and he had scored a total of 12 points in his last eight games, Graham's offensive outburst might not be something Turgeon can expect to happen regularly.
The biggest difference was the way Trimble delivered the ball to Graham and Dodd by drawing the defense toward him and dishing passes in close spaces.
As good as Trimble had been this season until his recent shooting slump – he has now missed his last 14 shots from the field over three games, dating back to the late missed 3-pointer against Northwestern – the point guard had more than four assists just once.
Graham said that his career-night scoring was largely the result of "being the fortunate beneficiary of [Trimble's] great passes."
It will be interesting to see what kind of big man rotation Turgeon uses going forward, starting Sunday at Iowa.
Cekovsky -- who showed some promise earlier in the season and even had some good moments (five points, six rebounds) during an 18-minute stint in the blowout loss at Ohio State last week -- did not play against Penn State. It marked the first time this season that the 7-footer from Slovakia was not used in a game.
Considering the quick hook Turgeon appears to have with his post players – even quicker it seems than last year when he played musical centers with Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell and Dodd – the Terps might be helped considerably if Graham, always a solid defender and high-energy player, can continue to score a little.
Asked Tuesday about his rotation of big men, Turgeon said, "We're trying to figure it out. We need our bigs to play better…We believe in all three of those guys. How much they depending on who we're playing. We're getting ready to play a pretty big team so they're going to be important tomorrow night."
Not much has changed going into Sunday's game at Iowa. The Hawkeyes are bigger (7-1, 245-pound Adam Woodbury and 6-10, 237-pound Gabriel Olaseni) and more athletic (6-9, 228-pound Aaron White, 6-9, 210-pound Jarrod Uthoff and Olaseni) across the frontline than any of the teams Maryland has played lately.
The Terps are going to need their bigs to produce to have any shot of winning.