Postgame: Post play carried Terps through shooting woes

November 21, 2012

Alex Len was effective in the paint in Tuesday night’s win over Lafayette. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post)

Opponents will continue to challenge this Maryland basketball team with zone defenses, daring the Terrapins to beat them from the outside. Alex Len will get double-teamed, sagged upon in the paint, with help-side defenders rotating down to stop backdoor cuts.

Put the 7-foot-1 center one-on-one, and Len will turn to any number of weapons within his enhanced arsenal. Baby hooks, step-backs and spin moves are all at his disposal, especially with Len’s increased confidence and maturity. But he won’t challenge multiple defenders.

The jumpers, in turn, must start falling. Making just 3 of 15 three-pointers won’t suffice moving forward. But Maryland can withstand similar shooting woes to those experienced in Tuesday night’s 83-74 win over Lafayette, primarily thanks to that aforementioned post play. With Len as the focus, the Terps can work inside-out, in that order.

“It’s opportunity to help the development of the play,” freshman Charles Mitchell said. If they double down on Alex, we cut middle and it opens up the wing. It opens up everything for our bigs and for our guards. Most games he’s going to get doubled. That’s something we expect and game-plan on.”

Maryland kept pace with a hot-shooting Leopards squad that made 15 three-pointers, thanks primarily to an abandonment of the outside game, insisting on working for floaters and layups against its undersized visitors. Len had just three points, all on free throws, by halftime, but finished with 16 on 6-of-11 shooting. James Padgett was again a rock in the starting lineup, shooting 6 for 7 for 14 points in 20 minutes, while Nick Faust had 13 points, Mitchell had 12 and Dez Wells had 11. More than two-thirds of Maryland’s points (50, to be exact), came in the paint.

“We have really good big men, so we like to get it to them first,” Wells said. “The guards, we can create our own shots, but we have to work through them, because they carry us throughout the game. We do whatever we can to get those guys involved. The guards, we just let the guys come to us. Open shot, we take it. Extra pass, we make it.”

Maryland’s holes came through shooting, free throws and rebounding, but the post play continued to excel. Like LIU-Brooklyn, Lafayette entered with a relatively small lineup, unable to match up height-wise with the Terps. So the Leopards scrapped and hit big shots, but never mustered that definitive run. Maryland was just too dominant inside.

From the opening minute, when Len blocked a shot, snatched an offense rebound off a Faust missed three-pointer and hit a free throw, the Terps set the tone. Padgett followed it up with a dunk inside, and seconds later Wells picked Seth Hinrichs at midcourt and turned it into a wide-open layup.

Asked about Maryland’s shooting struggles – the Terps are shooting just 31 percent from beyond the arc through four games this season – Turgeon didn’t seem the least bit worried.

“Pe’Shon’s not looking to shoot, and he finally shot one and he made it,” Turgeon said. “He’s a guy. I think Nick can make them. He proved that last year. I think Dez can make threes. I think Jake Layman can make threes, and I think Seth Allen can make threes. Plus Logan [Aronhalt]. We’ve got good shooters. It just wasn’t our night. We were smart enough to get the ball inside, second-chance points. I’ve got confidence in a lot of guys, as long as it’s a good shot.”

At least for now, the Terps can live off good shots in the paint. The offense, Turgeon said, is operating more effectively than at any point last season, when Terrell Stoglin essentially operated as a one-man shot machine.

“We’re sharing the ball. We have great balance,” Turgeon said. “Five guys in double figures tonight. Guys can score in a variety of ways. We’ve just got good players, and they want to win. They’re willing to share the ball and do the right thing.”

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 20, 2012