There were no game-clinching heroics from Roddy Peters on Saturday afternoon, no flexing of the muscles after an acrobatic layup like he did at Boston College, because when the Maryland men’s basketball team was fighting for its life versus Florida Atlantic, the freshman wasn’t on the floor, as was the case for nearly eight minutes before intermission as the first half wound down.
In hindsight, reflecting on a 66-62 squeaker at Comcast Center, perhaps Peters should have been. Coach Mark Turgeon explained the decision as a response to the Owls’ zone defense.
“We just wanted to have more threats out there,” he said.
With four games remaining in December, Peters has performed well enough to justify trust from Turgeon in these situations. And even though Peters has made just 4 of 19 jump shots this season (21.1 percent) according to hoop-math.com, his attacking abilities are an invaluable asset, even against the zone.
“He’s doing a great job, penetrating, passing the ball, he’s gotten so much better,” Jake Layman said. “It’s great to see. He’s a big part of our team. He’s a really tough kid when he comes in; he’s not afraid to push the ball up and get us into transition, which is great to have.”
Peters delivered another mixed bag in 19 minutes against Florida Atlantic but started his second straight game and has proven himself capable in that role. He handed ouback into the game.t five assists but committed three turnovers and made only 1 of 4 field goal attempts, yet still finished with a positive plus-minus rating of seven, largely absent when the Owls climbed
“You’re keeping shooters out there, and shooters aren’t making shots,” Turgeon said. “But no Roddy’s been good. His attitude’s been good. He wants to defend, and he just keeps getting better.”
All praise of Peters comes couched in the need for defensive improvement, but there have been increasingly more tangible instances of that change. Peters helped Maryland expand its first-half lead to 13 points when he stripped Pablo Bertone near midcourt and converted it into a layup.
Besides, as Nick Faust develops as a wing defender, Turgeon can afford letting Peters work through the mistakes, almost hiding him on the other end. Against the Florida Atlantic zone, Peters was the only Maryland player capable of consistently infiltrating it, and his quick penetration drew help defense up, allowing posts like Shaq Cleare (10 points) and Charles Mitchell (10 points) to dive from their short corner perch towards the rim.
Perhaps Peters will ultimately become a stopgap this season, returning to the bench when Seth Allen recovers from his broken foot. The six-week X-ray went swimmingly, Turgeon said, and Allen looked smooth taking some jump shots during pregame warm-ups, hopping and landing on his healthy foot.
But unlike an upper-body injury, Allen hasn’t been able to do much conditioning while constantly wearing a walking boot, so he will still need to work himself into game shape once the doctors clear him to do so. And until then, having a productive Peters answers a problem that has hounded Turgeon since he arrived from Texas A&M.
“I think with Roddy starting, everyone’s in their position,” Cleare said. “You give a chance for everyone to be in the right place. It’s hard adjusting to a position you don’t normally play, and Dez [Wells] has been doing a fantastic job, but Roddy is a natural point guard and he’s getting it done for us this year.”