In the aftermath of last Thursday's 80-56 loss at Ohio State, Maryland basketball coach Mark Turgeon had to figure out what changes, if any, he would make to his starting lineup going into Wednesday's home game against Penn State.
Apparently he has.
By choosing to return freshman Jared Nickens to a starting role instead of senior Richaud Pack for the first time in three weeks, Turgeon would be going for offense over defense, as well as experience off the bench.
If that happens, it's a surprising move, given that Pack is considered the team's best perimeter defender and the Nittany Lions boast the Big Ten's leading scorer, 6-4, 210-pound senior D.J. Newbill.
Pack did decent job early against Buckeyes freshman D'Angelo Russell, who is now being mentioned as the potential No. 1 overall pick in this year's NBA draft, and now it will likely fall to either Nickens or senior Dez Wells to slow down Newbill.
Newbill is shooting a more than respectable 46.5 percent from the field (161 for 346), 35.4 percent on 3-point shots (34 of 96) and 75.8 percent on free throws (116 of 153). He is also averaging three assists per game.
Asked Tuesday the difference between the two, Pack said, "Russell's a better shooter, Newbill's stronger and more experienced. He's a bull. He is probably in attack mode more, trying to score more than Russell is.
As much as Russell is looking to score, he's looking for teammates most of the time. If his time he'll take it. And Newbill is looking to score."
More known for using his 6-4, 210-pound body in a mid-range game, Newbill put up 37 points against Purdue in a game that went to overtime, 35 in a double-overtime game against Charlotte, 29 against Akron and Wisconsin and 27 against Michigan State. The Nittany Lions won only one of those games (against Akron).
The Nittany Lions are just 2-7 in the Big Ten, but Maryland coach Mark Turgeon sees them a potential challenge.
"When I think of Penn State, I think of a real tough-minded team, [a] tough physical team," Turgeon said Tuesday. "They're in every game. They got a great player in Newbill, which gives you a chance every night when you have a great player."
Pack doesn't seem to mind giving up some of his offense for defense, if it means more minutes. Turgeon said on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference Monday that "we need to get Richaud back playing the way he was playing. A lot of that has been my fault, inconsistent minutes for him."
Pack will also be critical in Maryland's offense getting back on track. Though Nickens has been one of the few Terps to shoot the ball well lately, he is counted on mostly as a 3-point shooter. Pack can knock down shots but is also a facilitator who keeps the ball moving to Wells, Melo Trimble and Jake Layman.
"We kind of lost our rhythm with that," Turgeon said.
It didn't seem to matter to either Pack or Nickens.
Pack played well off the bench with 11 points in 23 minutes when Nickens started against Purdue , though he has struggled a bit since. Two of Nickens' best games – 15 points in 20 minutes against Iowa State and 11 points in 21 minutes at Oklahoma State – came off the bench.
"I think it's just how the game plays out [with matchups], whether you start or not," Pack said. "Whether I have a good game or not isn't based on whether I start. It's based on how I play in the flow of the game.
Said Nickens, "I just want to contribute and help the team win. I'm comfortable doing both, doing whatever coach wants."
Turgeon said Turday he hadn't decided who was going to start "but they'll both play and they'll both play a lot. ... I want to get them in earlier, being a team again both offensively and defensively."