>> In his past four games, Pe’Shon Howard hadn’t made a single field goal. It wasn’t like the junior point guard was boisterously hoisting up shots that weren’t falling. Since going 1 for 8 during the season-opener against Kentucky, Howard hadn’t attempted more than five shots in a single game, preferring to act as a distributor within the offense, surging to the ACC’s lead in assists per game.
But Coach Mark Turgeon was still searching for Howard’s happy medium, somewhere between Kentucky and attempting two or fewer shots per game, like he did against LIU-Brooklyn (1 for 2), Georgia Southern (0 for 2), George Mason (0 for 1), Morehead State (0 for 0) and Maryland-Eastern Shore (0 for 0).
Granted, the Maryland-Eastern Shore game is somewhat of an outlier, given that Howard played a season-low nine minutes off the bench with a stomach ailment, but the point stands. Howard was, at times, passing up wide-open looks for tougher passes, which Maryland’s floor general often made. When teams dare him to shoot from the outside, Turgeon said, Howard has to shoot.
In a 61-46 win Saturday afternoon over South Carolina State, a two-minute stretch highlighted Howard’s ideal role within the offense. He drilled a three-pointer for the game’s first points 38 seconds into the game. On Maryland’s next possession, he threaded a nifty bounce pass through traffic to Charles Mitchell off a pick-and-roll. Then with 17:24 left, Howard penetrated the Bulldogs defense and lofted a no-look alley-oop to Alex Len on the baseline.
Howard finished 2 of 3 from the field, hitting another three-pointer for Maryland’s first points of the second half. It was Howard’s first game with multiple made field goals all season, and first since Feb. 4, 2012 against North Carolina, given his season-ending ACL injury that kept him out of last season’s final nine games.
“He’s not making shots in games but he’s making them in practice, so that’s a good sign for me,” Turgeon said Friday afternoon. “We’re all confident when he shoots it. I want him to shoot it when he’s open, and if they help off him he needs to step up and knock it down.”
>> Charles Mitchell has been perhaps the brightest light among Maryland’s four standout freshmen, entering Saturday as the ACC’s leader in total rebound percentage (22.7) and offensive rebound percentage (18.2). But he logged a season-low eight minutes against South Carolina State, not playing at all after the second half.
“He just wasn’t ready to play,” Turgeon said, offering nothing else.
Mitchell and Logan Aronhalt came out together at the 15:04 mark, exchanged for James Padgett and Dez Wells, giving Maryland its regular starting lineup on the floor. But Mitchell had two careless turnovers by that point, once losing the ball after dribbling a little too much and also letting a Dez Wells pass slip through his hands.
“You just have to tell him to keep his head up,” Seth Allen said. “Everyone has a bad game. If you were in the locker room with us, everyone’s in his ear, telling him to pick his head up. it’s one game. He’ll bounce back. Charles is a tough guy.”
>> Turgeon continues to insist that Maryland’s shooting touch will arrive, and the Terps will need another zone-buster other than Aronhalt once teams begin sagging into the paint even more. But three times in the past two games against zone defenses, Maryland has run a backdoor alley-oop.
Here’s how it works: The Terps line up in their regular zone offense, spreading three guards along the perimeter and post players on either block. The point guard swings to the side the alley-oop will eventually go to, then screens away to the weak-side guard, who flashes to the top of the key, receives a pass and swings it back to the point guard. Meanwhile, with the defense’s attention focused on the rotation up high, the weakside post player flashes to the strongside elbow and the other post player screens for a backdoor alley-oop, the pass coming from the opposite wing.
Allen found Nick Faust during the Maryland-Eastern Shore game on this play, and Dez Wells was the beneficiary twice against South Carolina State.
>> Assistant coach Dalonte Hill was back on the bench after missing the past two games with blood clots in his leg.