– The busiest person at Comcast Center on Wednesday night may have been the public-address announcer, who spent the evening announcing wave after wave of Maryland substitutions — sometimes five players at a time.
The competitive portion of the night ended quickly as Maryland, which gave three freshmen their first starts, bolted to a big lead and overwhelmed winless Maryland Eastern Shore with its size and passing , 100-68. It was the seventh straight win for the Terps (7-1).
After the Terps rolled to an early advantage, it was time for coach Mark Turgeon to do what coaches love. Turgeon tinkered with lineups and matchups, tested new players and used the game as a teaching opportunity.
Turgeon said he decided to shuffle his lineup so that his youngest players could understand what it feels like to start.
“You never know what lies ahead,” Turgeon said. “We plan on starting a different lineup on Saturday as well (against South Carolina State).”
Freshmen Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman and Seth Allen all got their first starts against the Hawks, (0-8), who were at a loss to deal with Maryland’s superior size.
“I’ve never done that before,” Turgeon said. “But I’ve never had a team like this that likes each other as much as they do.”
The coach was pleased with what he saw. Turgeon, who constantly preaches sharing the ball, watched as Maryland collected 27 assists, one shy of the season high.
Turgeon joked that the 27 assists — combined with the 28 against LIU Brooklyn last month — were more than the Terps had all of last year.
Maryland entered the game averaging 18 assists per game, tied for ninth in the nation. It’s one of the many statistics that distinguishes this team from last season’s edition, which didn’t move the ball nearly as effectively as Turgeon would like.
By the end of the game — with mostly walk-ons on the floor — the crowd applauded wildly for little-used players and cheered for the Terps to reach 100 points for the first time this season.
Walk-on Conner Lipinski’s free throw pushed the Terps into triple digits in the final minute.
Logan Aronhalt led Maryland with 17 points. He shot 5-for-7 on 3-pointers against Maryland Eastern Shore’s packed-in zone.
“When the team needs a spark — when we see a zone out there — (Turgeon) usually calls my name,” Aronhalt said.
Kyree Jones had 24 points for the Hawks.
“We knew we were going to be overmatched,” Hawks coach Frankie Allen said.
Cleare, the burly center, had only scored in double figures once before topping his career high with 12 on Wednesday night. Turgeon said he was driving home from Sunday night’s win over George Mason and was thinking about the freshman.
“I was like, ‘I’ve got to get Shaq more minutes.’ I like Shaq a lot as a person,” Turgeon said.
Said Cleare: “I thought it was very creative of him to do that (shuffle the lineup). A long season is ahead of us and he wants to be comfortable with the players.”
Layman also had a career high with 10 points.
The freshmen not only scored, but passed the ball efficiently. Maryland had already accumulated 10 assists by the time it took a 30-15 lead in front of the announced crowd of 9,813.
The Terps led 38-19 after three crisp passes — the last by freshman Charles Mitchell — produced an uncontested Cleare lay-up.
The game was the first in a string of six contests against clearly beatable nonconference teams at home. While the homestand may not feature marquee opponents, Turgeon said it’s a perfect time for his team — with its four freshmen and two transfers — to prepare for the opening of Atlantic Coast Conference play on Jan. 5.
“I just don’t want people to think we’re this great team because we’re not yet,” Turgeon said. “We’ve got a chance to be.”