For a Maryland team desperately in need of a morale-boosting victory over a nationally ranked team, the difference between losing and winning Sunday’s game against No. 5 Virginia was sophomore guard Seth Allen.
After helping the Terps take a four-point lead on a jumper with 2:39 left in regulation, Allen’s inability to get Maryland into its offense on three of the team’s last four possessions led to the Cavaliers forcing overtime.
But then Allen showed his growth as an elite college scorer, if not quite an elite college point guard, by making Maryland’s first two baskets in overtime, both on drives, scoring the first five points of overtime in a 75-69 victory for the Terps.
That stretch of a little more than seven minutes summed up the balancing act between thinking Allen is the second-coming of former Michigan star Trey Burke or former Terps guard Terrell Stoglin. For Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, it might be both.
Asked on Monday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference about how difficult it has been to get Allen to play consistently within the team’s offense, Turgeon said: “It’s a constant battle with him. He’s still learning how to play, learning the game, and learning situations.
“Not only does he have to do that [score], he has to run the team. It’s not natural for him, and so it’s been a process. Seth and I had a good meeting last week, and I think it carried over. I thought he passed up available 3s to drive the ball, which I liked ... It’s a process, but it continues to get better.”
Allen finished with a team-high 20 points on 7 of 17 shooting, including 2 of 7 on 3-pointers. He took 10 more shots than junior guard Dez Wells (5 of 7), who finished with 18 points, 16 in the second half; also 10 more than junior forward Evan Smotrycz (5 of 7), who had all of his 13 points in the first half.
There’s no pattern when it comes to Allen regarding whether Maryland wins or loses, and if he spends more time shooting than passing. His best all-around game came in a rout at Virginia Tech, when he finished with 16 points, seven assists (two turnovers) and five rebounds.
But the game that Turgeon believes was the best Allen has played in his nearly two seasons in College Park was his 32-point performance against Florida State on Feb. 8. Allen shot 11 of 15 from the field, including 7 of 10 on 3-pointers. The Terps won easily.
“The great thing about that night is that almost every shot came out of our offense,” Turgeon said Monday. “I remember watching the film afterward with him and showing how it came out of this play or that play or out of what we were running, or a guy penetrating or pitching.
“That was the best part, and that's why offensively it was his best game since he’s been here because he let the game come to him. And he made some tough shots. He made some deep 3s and got it going and continued to make them. We had a good lead and he was relaxed.”
It certainly will factor into how Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton plans for Thursday’s second-round game against the Terps in the ACC tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum.
But ultimately, it could help Maryland if Allen is a willing passer -- something he isn’t much of the time -- because it will open up shots for Wells, Smotrycz, Jake Layman and maybe even for big men Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare.
It should be noted that Allen also had his worst game of the season against the Seminoles, going 0-for-8 (including 0-for-6 on 3-pointers) in a 24-point loss in Tallahassee, Fla., back in mid-January. It was just his fifth game back after missing the first 12 with a broken foot.
Somewhere in between from Allen should be good enough for the Terps to advance into Friday’s quarterfinal against the Cavaliers.
”I’m sure they will guard him differently in this game [than the one last month],” Turgeon said of the Seminoles.