For a Maryland basketball team that derives strength from depth, it was only fitting that its final non-conference tune-up before ACC play was powered by a top-to-bottom effort.
Just two Terrapins scored in double-digits, but all 10 regulars had at least four points in Maryland’s 81-63 blowout over IUPUI at Comcast Center on Tuesday. There were no breakout performances like Charles Mitchell’s monstrous double-double against Delaware State, no gaudy stat lines for the stars. Just overall consistency, with little flash, a trait that should bode well with only conference games ahead.
When a tinkered starting lineup featuring Mitchell instead of James Padgett stumbled out of the gate, falling behind 14-3 early, a makeshift group of Padgett, Seth Allen, Logan Aronhalt, Jake Layman and Shaquille Cleare sparked an 11-0 run that put the Terps up for good.
Maryland took its first lead at 20-19 on an Allen runner before Coach Mark Turgeon line-changed in his five starters. But the Jaguars kept things close, down by just three points before the bench returned following the under-14 media timeout. From there, Padgett hit two free throws, Aronhalt again broke IUPUI’s zone defense with a corner three-pointer and Dez Wells soared through the lane for an acrobatic, buzzer-beating tip-in that sent the Terps into halftime with a seven-point lead.
“The depth really helps us create leads because it gives our team a different look,” Allen said. “The first five starts out a little bit flat, but then the bench came in and we executed our plays and we really guarded. The first five came back in and they played well too, so we really feed off of each other.”
Allen finished with a team-high 13 points, Aronhalt added 10 on three three-pointers and Maryland’s bench outscored its counterparts by over 35 points for the second straight game. No player attempted more than six shots.
“Deepest team I’ve ever been on,” said Pe’Shon Howard, who tied his season-high with eight points. “We really go 10 strong. We can go five and five and not have a drop-off at all.”
Unless the mood strikes Turgeon just right, the platooning should disappear by ACC play. But it serviced the Terrapins well Tuesday afternoon, when little else but a five-man jolt would suffice. So in stepped reserves like Layman, who misfired on all three three-point attempts but played solid perimeter defense and posted up successfully for the first time this season, or Cleare, who dominated down low for a sizable second-half stretch.
“I’m really pleased with our depth,” Turgeon said. “A lot of guys down 14-3 would be afraid to put in a bunch of freshmen. We just put them in and they did great. I watch them practice every day and they do great. Depth is going to help us. It’s nice when you can say, we’re going to do this to start the second half, and one guy doesn’t do it, so you just take him out because you have other guys. It’ll get their attention, and they’ll start to do everything the way we want to do it moving on.”
The rotation remains in flux, even if Turgeon played with the starters a bit Tuesday. Padgett finished with eight points and six rebounds in 16 minutes, while Mitchell had seven points and five rebounds in 20 minutes. Regardless, the actual starting lineup seems to matter little for this group, implicitly threatened with the idea that, if one player doesn’t perform, plenty more can step up in his stead.
Perhaps the best example of Maryland’s mentality, however, came in garbage time once Turgeon emptied his bench for the fifth time in the past six games. On came Conner Lipinski, Spencer Barks and Jacob Susskind, joining Layman and Mitchell. For two straight offensive possessions, the Terps ran sets for Susskind. After all, he’s the only player to not score this season.
“We did a really nice job of sharing the ball throughout,” Turgeon said. “That’s what I like about our team. They recognize, I don’t have to score 20 today. We brought Jake Susskind in, he hasn’t scored, got two opportunities but he couldn’t handle it. That’s what our team does. We went to Spencer last game, Jake Susskind this game. We try to make everyone happy. “