From the outset of Tuesday night’s ACC matchup against Boston College, the Maryland men’s basketball team’s game plan was simple, much like it’s been all season. The undersize Eagles were no match for the Terrapins on their first two defensive possessions, ceding easy baby hooks to Charles Mitchell and Alex Len before hastily substituting 7-foot center Dennis Clifford to provide some size underneath.
The Terrapins went scoreless for the next three minutes until Jake Layman hit a three-pointer, and didn’t net a basket around the rim until guard Logan Aronhalt (of all people) slashed through traffic for a layup almost five minutes after that. But the emphasis was clear.
Maryland’s recent offensive slide coincided with a departure from its inside-out principles, as the Terps jacked up ill-advised jump shots rather than displaying patience and trust in the system to develop open looks. The Terps had more turnovers than assists over their past four games entering Tuesday, and shot 35.5 percent from the field in that span.
Granted, it was against Boston College, but the offense made substantial strides, an easy feat given how far it fell after the Virginia Tech game. The invisible lids removed from above the cylinder, Maryland shot 42.4 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from beyond the arc against Boston College, its first time topping the 40 percent plateau in either category since drubbing the Hokies on Jan. 5.
“[The offense was] definitely [better] tonight, flowing a little better,” said Aronhalt, who finished with eight points and made his first field goal in three games. “It wasn’t great, wasn’t perfect tonight, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Alex Len took 14 shots, tying his career high set against Stony Brook on Dec. 21, and while James Padgett, Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare all played limited minutes, simply by virtue of an unfavorable matchup scenario, it represented a returned focus on Maryland’s biggest offensive asset.
Cold snaps still weaved their way into Comcast Center at times — especially when Boston College itself grew frigid from the field — and Maryland wasn’t able to truly pull away. But it won’t come all at once against the Terps, who must avoid an offensive regression at Duke this weekend.
Maryland made seven three-pointers Tuesday, as many as it made against Miami, North Carolina State and North Carolina combined. Jake Layman and Aronhalt stuck two apiece, off drive-and-kicks, and all seven were assisted (including four by newly minted point guard Dez Wells), meaning the Terps weren’t simply jacking up shots in transition or off the dribble.
Len was physical in the post, resisting double-teams in the short corner or on the block by holding the ball high above his head, an obviously simple answer to a recent minor issue. So while Boston College brought guards to paw at Len, it opened up secondary options along the perimeter.
“We knew that we had to really focus on our offense tonight,” Layman said. “With defense, if we focus we’ll be fine. Offense was our main focus tonight, and I think we executed great.”
Maryland still wants to rely upon its defense, its offense feeding off stops at the other end. It got another in crunch time against the Eagles, as Faust hit a three-pointer that turned a four-point lead into seven, stripped Joe Rahon in traffic with 17 seconds left and hit two free throws that sealed the win, just the Terps’ second in five games.
“We’re just getting used to it,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “We really defended, had good defenders on the floor, guys believe in each other. Take away the two no-box outs, we really guarded in that stretch. It was hard for them to get a shot. Our guys believe in our defense. Pretty soon we’re going to start believing in our offense and getting better. Sixty-four [points] tonight, 43 percent [shooting], feels like 80 percent compared the way we’ve been shooting.
“We’re still in the search. But I’ll say that in March, I’ll say that 18 years from now when I’m still coaching. That’s just kind of a line I use, and you guys will get used to it. Tonight we figured out how to win. We drew some things up we’d never practiced. We figured out how to win, because we couldn’t guard them in the big lineup. We’ll add some things, go big against Duke some, be more complete.”
MUCH, MUCH MORE
– VIDEO: Talkin’ Terps with Logan Aronhalt.