At sporadic times throughout the first four games this season, Coach Mark Turgeon will point to his bench and order a total lineup change. It’s almost hockey-like, seeing four freshmen and Logan Aronhalt enter for the starting lineup, keeping legs fresh and bringing in an entirely different rotation.
Turgeon did it twice on Tuesday against Lafayette, once in each half. The first came early, with the Terps up 9-5 after a James Padgett layup, when Aronhalt, Charles Mitchell, Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman and Seth Allen all subbed in together. Maryland ran the score to 13-10 before Pe’Shon Howard was exchanged for Allen, while Padgett, Dez Wells and Nick Faust all entered at the under-12 television timeout.
The second occasion proved more dangerous, yet hardly detrimental in the long run. Sitting on a comfortable 17-point lead, Turgeon subbed out his starters again, but after Mitchell’s baby hook increased Maryland’s lead to 54-35, the Leopards answered with an eight-point run, cutting the score to 54-43 and forcing Turgeon to reverse his line change.
“I’ll rely on my gut,” Turgeon said of substitution plans moving forward. “We were rolling, up 19. Felt like they didn’t have the energy they had, and I felt comfortable with the decision to put those guys in. I think you can do it with the first half at some times and get away with it. We’ll see. I don’t want to back myself into a corner. Each day I get a little bit better feel for the team and hopefully I can settle a little bit better tonight than I did Wednesday.”
Turgeon doesn’t expect a change in the starting lineup come Saturday’s matchup at Comcast Center against Georgia Southern. Padgett, Wells, Howard, Faust and Alex Len have started all four games so far. Plus, as Turgeon said, “I don’t think any of my young kids deserve to start.”
In practice, the Terps split up their four freshmen onto different teams, so subbing gradually, instead of all at once, would only seem natural.
>> Speaking of Aronhalt, the senior transfer from Albany has averaged just 7.75 minutes per game this season. He appears to be 10th in Turgeon’s 10-man rotation, often disappearing altogether late in games. A proven shooter at the Division I level, Aronhalt has settled into a gunner’s role, brought off the bench to attack zones and run set plays designed for him to provide a quick spark.
But that presumes that Aronhalt can simply walk off the bench and get hot.
“It’s not fair,” Turgeon said. “He can’t get into it. I told him that. He had a big shot before the half, ran a play for him. He can’t get into the flow. Last few games he hasn’t had a chance to get into the flow. Right now, unfortunately he has to be the designated shooter. I can’t expect anyone to come in like that.”
>> Turgeon expects Georgia Southern to throw some zone defense at the Terps on Saturday. Maryland first saw a zone against Lafayette, patiently working the ball around and finding cutting post men at the elbow or short corner.
“It’s not a concern. I think we’ll run good zone offense,” Turgeon said. “We do have some good shooters. Like Dez said, it was the first zone we’ve seen. I thought we were pretty good against it as the game went on. Shot 60-something percent in the second half. We missed some open shots that we’ll make as the year goes forward. If the team zones us Saturday, it’s giving us a chance to get better at it. We haven’t spent a lot of time on it, but we have the past three or four days. If we do see it, hopefully we’ll be just as effective. A zone offense works better when you make jump shots, and we weren’t, but the bottom line was we’re scoring.”
>> For the first time in his career, Turgeon gave his players Thanksgiving off, not before making sure that everyone had a place to eat. None of the Terps dined at the Turgeon household, however. “Players don’t want to hang with their coach on a day off,” said Turgeon, who had a few friends and family members over.
“It’s my favorite meal of the year,” Turgeon said. There’s a lot of pressure on my wife to come through and she did a great job.”