As the clock ticked down to halftime Saturday, Erick Green dribbled near midcourt, searching for a move to blow by his defender. Pe’Shon Howard faced the Virginia Tech guard, the nation’s second-leading scorer, resisting every jab and crossover with shuffled feet that squared up Green. With less than a one-second difference between the shot clock and the game clock, the sellout crowd at Comcast Center began applauding, recognizing Howard’s lock-down effort. Then, with six seconds left, Howard fouled Green in the back court, stopping the clock and resetting the possession.
Maryland was up, 53-37, on Virginia Tech at that point, closing the half on a 19-6 run in the final six minutes, but a well-timed three-pointer could have sent Virginia Tech into the break with much-needed momentum. Green got a step on Howard, surging into the paint, but was met by Alex Len, who forced a kick-out to the corner. Jarell Eddie then air-balled a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Green still scored, just like the Terrapins knew he would. He finished with a game-high 28 points, but needed 18 shots and 10 free throws to do so. Maryland entered focused not on shutting down Green altogether, but on harassing the shifty shooter, forcing contested jumpers from the ACC’s top scorer.
Dez Wells, Seth Allen and Pe’Shon Howard all took turns guarding Green, but Howard defended him for the longest stretches, logging 30 minutes in Maryland’s 94-71 win. At times, Green was his usual electric self, splashing jumpers and runners around the Comcast Center, but the Terps held their end of the bargain. They were stingy enough.
After the game, Coach Mark Turgeon found a suitable comparison for Green’s scoring prowess, harkening back to the ghosts of his inaugural season in College Park.
“He’s really good,” Turgeon said of Green. “He reminds me a lot of Terrell [Stoglin]. I didn’t let Terrell go like that. If I did, Terrell would have gotten 30 a game. [Green] is hard to guard. He’s hard to guard on ball screens, especially when you have a seven-foot guy trying to help him, and you have Shaq [Cleare], who is 280, trying to help on a ball screen.
“We have to play him again. We’ll have to guard him a lot better if we want to beat him on the road.”
Green was effective by himself, but his supporting cast was either hampered by foul trouble or poor shooting. Starting forwards Joe van Zegeren and Cadarian Raines combined for 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including some athletic tip-ins on the offensive glass, but each played the second half with four fouls. Jarell Eddie and Robert Brown, however, combined to shoot just 6 for 27 from the field and 1 for 12 from beyond the arc.
“Erick’s a great player,” Dez Wells said. “He finished with 28 points, so we made the other guys beat us. We knew he’d get his. He’s just a great scorer. His ability to shoot the ball, draw fouls, he’s a great free-throw shooter, so those are the key components to his game.”
>> Wells turned in another extremely efficient game, making 5 of 6 free throws and 3 of 5 field goals to finish with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists. Once Virginia Tech chopped the lead to 11 points in the second half, Wells became more assertive, sparking a little run that officially put the game out of reach.
“Unlike the Kentucky game, I was trying to keep myself calm,” Wells said. “My heart was beating so fast. It was hard to keep myself calm and slow my adrenaline down. Once I got going in the second half, it was really good for me and my team. But those guys and my team, they had a heck of a game, so I don’t really care how much I score.”
There’s still room for improvement, though. Wells had three turnovers, his eighth game with multiple turnovers this season.
“It’s gotten better. I’m still trying to cut back on my turnovers,” he said. “That’s going to be a … yeah I have to cut back on my turnovers. Dang, I just have to cut back on those turnovers. It’s rough.”
>> Recruits Dion Wiley, a class of 2014 guard, and class of 2013 commit Roddy Peters attended the game and sat together behind the Terps bench. Top target Dwayne Morgan (St. Frances) was supposed to attend on an unofficial visit, but a last-minute scheduling change forced him to miss out, according to his AAU coach Dwayne Wise.
>> Layman had as many points in the first half (18) as he did in his past five games combined. Not bad for his second career start.
>> Wells’s five fouls were the first foul-out this season for Maryland. Allen had four fouls against Monmouth and Alex Len had four against Delaware State.
>> Dave Neal was recognized as Maryland’s honorary captain, and received a nice standing ovation from the Comcast Center crowd. Still the Mayor of College Park, it seems.