Postgame: Guard-heavy lineup closed out win for the Terps

November 16, 2012

This Maryland men’s basketball team has derived power from its depth, a relentless 10-man rotation that floods opponents with line changes and fresh legs. Coach Mark Turgeon can mix and match with ease, searching for the right combination. For the second straight game, all 10 Terrapins scored.

But when Turgeon needed a closing group on Friday night, he summoned a lineup that remained on the court for the final 6 minutes 5 seconds, delivering the final blow against a pesky LIU-Brooklyn squad.

After Seth Allen drained a three-pointer to put Maryland up 73-62, Turgeon subbed Nick Faust in for James Padgett and left Allen, Faust, Pe’Shon Howard, Dez Wells and Alex Len in for the game’s duration, watching as the Terps’ lead ballooned from 11 to 17 points by the final buzzer.

It’s a rotation Maryland hasn’t practiced much, if at all, but could become the closeout crew once the Terps get a late lead, Turgeon later said. The speedy unit wore down LIU-Brooklyn, running the break with ease and unleashing back-court pressure.

“It was situational,” Turgeon said. “I was really stubborn tonight. I kept the big lineup in. I get tired of bailing kids out. I want them to bail themselves out. I stuck with the big lineup in the second half. Could put Jake at the ‘4,’ but Nick’s been here. Little bit easier to do. Kept it simple. Allowed us to switch screens, guard us better. Offensively we were pretty explosive. I don’t know. You might see it with leads.”

What followed was 18 points and three steals in the final six minutes, with all of Maryland’s post players, save Len, sitting on the bench. Not that they weren’t productive Friday: Shaquille Cleare was an efficient 4 for 5 from the field in 12 minutes, while classmate Charles Mitchell had four rebounds in 12 minutes.

But against a scrappy bunch that seemingly answered every second-half blow with streaky shooting in transition, Maryland’s guard-heavy lineup rendered LIU-Brooklyn gassed, culminating in a wide-open Allen dunk originating from a Howard steal near midcourt with 2:11 left that pushed the lead to 91-71. 

“That comes from our off-the-court chemistry,” Howard said. “Being guards, we’re always working together. On the court we’re pretty comfortable. The situations coach put us in were a lot of spread. LIU was pressing at the end, going for gambles, being a little more risky. It balanced out either way.”

It was perhaps a taste of what the Terps’ rotation may wind up becoming once ACC play roles around in January. But it remains November, and Turgeon still tinkers on a daily basis. Even he isn’t sure what could happen on game day. Still, Turgeon knows that 200 total minutes aren’t enough to keep 10 players happy.

“No. There’s not” enough minutes in the game, Turgeon said. “But guys have to grow up and put Maryland first. Better play well when you’re in. Shortened it a little in the second half. You could tell. They got to keep themselves happy.”

Given the way these Terrapins rally around each other, that shouldn’t be a problem. Wins help keep spirits alive, Turgeon said, but joy is palpable. Before Allen left the media room, he snuck back and flashed a grin at Howard. Minutes later, as Howard too took his exit, he stopped and wrapped Len in a bear hug, diffusing the brotherly love from one teammate to another.


Alex Len, center, was the lone big man in a speedy lineup used by Mark Turgeon to pull away from LIU-Brooklyn. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | November 16, 2012