In the brief moment that Seth Allen seemed to levitate in midair, he thought about how this particular play should never have happened. The sophomore had driven into the teeth of Florida State’s defense and, when help arrived, he rose up to pass, which “you’re not supposed to do,” he said later.
But he was in such a zone by then, the first half Saturday afternoon not even finished, that Allen made a decision to keep the basketball. As the defender backed off, expecting a pass, Allen hovered and shot. It kissed the net and dropped through.
“After that,” Allen said, “I felt like I could make a lot of shots.”
Few temperature-related words could describe Allen’s outing during Maryland’s 83-71 win over Florida State, when he torched the Seminoles for a career-best 32 points on seven three-pointers. It atoned for his 0-for-8 night against Florida State in early January and, perhaps more importantly, continued to justify the praise Coach Mark Turgeon has heaped onto his starting point guard, even if such showings have never quite materialized in a consistent manner during games.
“I think shooting he took it to a little bit different level,” Turgeon said. “He’s getting closer. When he’s making shots he guards better. That helps. I think our transition defense was good, I thought a lot of things we did defensively was good. That was a pretty high level.”
Long ago, Allen quit answering reporters whenever they asked for a percentage to be put on his health. His once-broken foot was repaired enough to play and for some time that was good enough. Full strength would eventually arrive and until then the process would continue.
“I can’t just say I have one really good game and say I’m back,” Allen said. “I don’t want to put a number on it. I just want to keep playing.”
Expecting a repeat of games like Saturday’s win will be unrealistic for Allen, but so long as he finds new ways to contribute, the Terps are better for it. Once again, freshman point guard Roddy Peters was a non-factor. He played three total minutes, all meant to briefly provide rest for Allen, who has taken a stranglehold on the point guard spot since his return.
At various times, Allen had pulled up in transition for three-pointers, split double-teams for easy layups, broke down the defense late in the shot clock to find open teammates, threw an alley-oop to Dez Wells and played enough solid defense on guards Aaron Thomas (17 points on 6-of-18 shooting) and Montay Brandon (11 points, 7 of 7 on free throws).
“He had control of our team,” forward Jake Layman said of Allen. “He’s back to being that guy where we look to him as our point guard and as our leader. We know that he has it in him. It was just great to see it come out tonight. We’re all happy for him. It was huge for us in terms of getting this win. It was great to see.”
As Turgeon addressed reporters following practice Friday afternoon, most of the Terps long since departed for treatment and rest, Allen remained on the floor, working on his mid-range jumper. He and assistant coach Scott Spinelli had watched film of Tuesday’s loss at North Carolina, when Allen kept settling for three-pointers and made just 3 of 10. So Allen wanted to make 20 of 25 after practice and wound up making 23.
“When you’re hitting shots,” he said, “it feels good because you get a rhythm. Coach Spinelli always tells you to hold your follow through, and hold your guide hand, but once you get in a rhythm you don’t have to do that. Once you get the open look, you just throw it up there and you know it’s going in.”
Games will surely come for Allen, like they always do over long seasons, when chucking up shots doesn’t amount to the best strategy, when his shot isn’t seemingly falling on every attempt. But he passed up several open looks in the early going before sticking a three-pointer less than three minutes into the game. Eventually, when the Terps needed him to take over, he did. But they won’t need that every night. They will need a floor general, a leader who can involve everyone, play strong defense and, when the moment strikes, rise up to carry them, too.
“He’s definitely more under control,” Layman said. “Last year and when he first came back, he’d get a little crazy sometimes and force some shots. Tonight he was picking his spots great. When he was on fire, we didn’t care when he shot it.”
NOTE: Make sure to check out John Feinstein’s column from the game. Turgeon talks candidly about fan support, Gary Williams.