>> Free throws helped clinch Maryland’s 83-81 upset of Duke on Saturday. Seth Allen’s two foul shots with 2.8 seconds left won it, but Alex Len also made 7 of 8, his most productive game from the stripe all season.
In a game featuring 34 second-half fouls and 49 overall, the Terps proved the main beneficiaries, at least from the free throw line. Duke attempted just 21 free throws. Star forward Mason Plumlee only had two attempts, and he missed them both.
It’s no coincidence either that Maryland’s two biggest wins this season, against Duke and North Carolina State, are also the only times the Terps have shot better than 65 percent from the free throw line since losing to Florida State at home on Jan. 9.
“It was a lot of things,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Kind of the way they guarded us, we were aggressive and I think they called the game pretty tight. It was a lot of reasons we got there. It was nice to be in a two-shot situation. We haven’t been in that a lot in the league. You could probably count it on one finger, how many times we’ve had a two-shot situation. That’s not my teams and the way we normally play. Hopefully that continues.”
Now the challenge, as with all facets of their game, becomes replicating that performance against Boston College on Tuesday night.
“It’s always harder on the road,” Turgeon said. “The way they’re going to guard you. BC is pressuring a little more than they’ve pressured. They actually zoned a little Saturday. But they also play what we call the pack-line defense, so it’s a little more difficult. We’ll see. There’s a reason we scored 83 points. We got to the foul line, so that really helps. We’ll keep the same formula and hopefully it continues to work.”
>> With the ACC player of the year discussion heating up, it appears to be a three-horse race between Plumlee, Virginia Tech’s Erick Green and Miami guard Shane Larkin. The Hurricanes’ dynamic point guard is averaging 13.2 points, 4.3 assists, 4.1 rebounds and just 2.3 turnovers per game this season, and recently became the basis of comparison for one of Maryland’s young guards – Allen.
“I made that comparison when we first started practice,” Turgeon said. “Larkin shoots it better. Seth’s a good defender, he had five steals against Virginia. Larkin’s a world-class athlete who gets a lot of steals. I think there’s a lot of comparisons now. The difference is Larkin is under control, most of the time if not all of the time. Seth’s not yet. Larkin knows how to change gears. Seth doesn’t. He puts it into fifth pretty quickly and doesn’t slow it down until he runs over somebody.”
That overzealous playing style resulted in Allen’s career-high eight turnovers against Duke, but it seems that Turgeon is content to stick with the reigning ACC rookie of the week as his starting point guard moving forward.
“Some of those turnovers the other night were just so out of the ordinary,” Turgeon said. “You just had to shake your head and sit down, say let’s play some defense. He has confidence, he has a lot of confidence with the ball in his hands. He was a very confident player with 2.8 seconds to go, which is nice. He relished the moment. That was all good to see.
“Is he a true point guard? No. Is he trying right now because we need him to? Yes. Did he at times handle the pressure great? Yeah, he did. Even that last play, they were pressuring him. … he waited for the play to develop and he drove it. I imagine, as we move forward here and he continues to play more point guard, he’ll improve, get better. Turnovers will come down.”
>> Turgeon didn’t offer any clarification on Pe’Shon Howard’s one-game suspension, other than saying that he called Howard on Sunday to reinstate him. Whatever incident happened – Turgeon and players are keeping mum on the issue – seemed to occur earlier last week. Turgeon said that Howard missed multiple practices leading up to the Duke game, but returned to the team Sunday night and was scheduled to practice Monday before traveling to Boston College.
Howard’s absence could limit his playing time against the Eagles, but it looks like the Terps will again rotate 10 players. It also seems that Turgeon is content to bury the issue and move forward with Howard as an integral part of the team.
“I talked to the team about his mistakes,” Turgeon said. “Hopefully Pe’Shon learned from them and hopefully they learned. He paid his punishment. He got punished pretty good for what he did. He’ll be back. We need a confident, playing well Pe’Shon for us to be successful.”
>> Cat’s out of the bag. Turgeon called Shaq Cleare his “favorite player to coach on the team.” He’s long lauded Cleare’s work ethic in practice, but at least gave Cleare the “favorite” tag.
>> Some quick stats that never made it into the game preview, courtesy of Maryland athletics:
17: Dez Wells’s scoring average in six road games this season.
.944: Maryland winning percentage (17-1) when leading with five minutes left. The lone loss came at Florida State.
88: Percentage of Maryland’s games when at least eight players have scored (22 of 25). The exceptions are Miami, George Mason and North Carolina.
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