James Padgett doesn’t exactly fancy himself a headline-grabber, especially in recent games. Soft-spoken by nature, Padgett has seen his minutes steadily decline since the new year began, coinciding with the emergence of his younger front-court teammates.
As one of Maryland’s two seniors and the team’s elder statesman, Padgett provides a veteran voice. But since Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare began eating minutes and earning nods in Coach Mark Turgeon’s starting lineup, leadership is about all Padgett has brought. After starting 10 of the season’s first 11 games, notching at least 20 minutes in five of them, Padgett hadn’t played more than 17 minutes in any game this calendar year entering this week’s games. What’s more, he logged single-digit playing time against North Carolina, Boston College and Duke.
So imagine the collective surprise when Padgett suddenly played 31 minutes in Wednesday’s heartbreaking loss at Florida State, sitting for just one minute after halftime. He scored six points, most since scoring eight against IUPUI on Jan. 1.
The increased playing time seemed fitting. Both Alex Len and Cleare were hampered by foul trouble against the Seminoles, and Turgeon likes rolling with multiple post players. But Padgett played himself right into Maryland’s starting lineup for its return to Comcast Center in Saturday’s 86-60 blowout over Wake Forest. He got going early, dropping a soft baby hook on the first possession, and never missed. The senior forward finished 6 for 6 from the field in a team-high 26 minutes.
To put that in perspective, he’s played more minutes over the past two games (57) than he did in the previous five combined (54). In that span, he also scored more points (18) than in his past seven games.
“You can see it helped out our guards to make shots,” Len said. “James is a great passer. And he made six out of six shots. He was great today.”
Turgeon can tinker with Padgett’s minutes so heavily because he might actually be Maryland’s most consistent player, albeit in limited playing time. With little flash, he’ll provide a couple rebounds, a few high-percentage shots and maybe an and-one layup, given his penchant for absorbing contact. Of course, that comes with a price. Padgett’s size makes him a limited low-post defender, but he’s smart enough to compensate accordingly.
“[Wake Forest] started a small lineup against Duke, and I had a feeling they’d do it again,” Turgeon said. “James played really well against Florida State. James is a senior. I have a lot of confidence in James on the defensive end. He scored early, we went to him right away and he made the shot. He gave up a 3 in transition going the other way and I was like: ‘Oh my gosh, here we go. [Travis] McKie’s going to get hot in this building again.’
“James was just tremendous the whole way. His defense, he’s a smart player. Takes a lot of pressure off Alex, a lot of pressure off Shaq and Charles when he plays that way. It was a welcome sight.”
>> Nick Faust, Seth Allen and Pe’Shon Howard all split time at point guard. Howard had missed the Florida State game with the flu, while Allen played just 16 minutes. The position, Turgeon said, still remains in flux.
Allen, for his part, finally got his outside shot going again, finishing with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting and three three-pointers. Howard played 14 minutes and logged three assists against two turnovers, while Nick Faust only attempted four shots, finishing 2 for 4 for five points, four assists and three turnovers.
“Where we go at point guard? I don’t know,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in Nick. Seth Allen played more point today than he’s done in a long time, did a nice job with it. I thought Pe’Shon at point was tremendous defensively today. Especially in the first half, he did a great job on [Devin] Harris.”
>> Wake Forest freshman Devin Thomas made 6 of 9 field goal attempts and scored 12 points, but played sparingly in the first half after getting into some early foul trouble. Of course, his 0-for-3 performance at the free throw line sparked chants from the Comcast Center crowd of “Alyssa’s better,” a nod to his older sister, a star on the Maryland women’s team. Check out Gene Wang’s story on this weekend’s Thomas family reunion.
>> Asked whether he felt the Terps seemed more comfortable Saturday afternoon than they had in some time, Logan Aronhalt delivered one of the season’s best quotes.
“That’s just Comcast Center. It’s our home. We feel so comfortable, we know we have the students behind us. We had a great crowd today. A lot of energy. Some girl had a sign that said, ‘We love Logan.’ Things can’t get much better than that.”
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