Maryland basketball vs. Georgia Southern: Bench propels Terps to a 70-53 win

November 24, 2012

The Maryland men’s basketball team weathered tense moments in the first half against Georgia Southern on Saturday night before its reserves helped trigger a decisive burst immediately after intermission to pave the way to a 70-53 victory in front of an announced 10,282 at Comcast Center.

Freshman forward Charles Mitchell contributed significantly during a 17-4 flurry; he scored six consecutive points after senior guard Logan Aronhalt sank the third of his four three-pointers for the first basket of the second half.

Sophomore center Alex Len followed with a field goal and a three-pointer from sophomore guard Nick Faust and three-point play from Len gave Maryland a 46-30 lead with 14 minutes 42 seconds left.

Maryland didn’t lead by less than nine points the rest of the game, in which Mitchell collected a team-high 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for his first career double-double. Aronhalt added 12 points in 15 minutes and Faust had 11 points as five players scored in double figures in the fourth consecutive home victory for Maryland (4-1).

“That wasn’t a lot of fun, especially the first half,” Terrapins Coach Mark Turgeon said. “We obviously weren’t ready to play. Physically, mentally, we weren’t ready to play. I thought Georgia Southern was ready out of the gate.”

That’s when the Eagles built a 9-1 lead, compelling Turgeon to call timeout with 11:32 to play until halftime. He then began substituting liberally, inserting Mitchell for the first time, and Maryland took the lead for good, 21-19, on Aronhalt’s three-pointer at 5:52.

With Maryland nursing a three-point lead at the break, Turgeon began the second half with a lineup minus starters Pe’Shon Howard, James Padgett and Dez Wells. Mitchell, Aronhalt and freshman Seth Allen started instead in a move that underscored Turgeon’s preference for his bench, which outscored Georgia Southern’s by 37-9 and shot 55 percent.

By contrast, Maryland’s starters missed 15 of 26 shots and committed 10 of the team’s 17 turnovers. Ten of the team’s turnovers came in the first half, but Maryland was able to overcome thanks in part to a 49-25 advantage in rebounding that led to a 17-7 margin in second-chance points.

“We were sluggish out there basically the whole first half,” Aronhalt said. “We’ve been doing that the last couple games, coming out without energy, so [Turgeon] said it’s time for us to pick it up. I thought we did the first five minutes of the second half.”

The momentum-shifting run featured Mitchell twice scoring on putbacks and once dunking to loud applause. Mitchell’s hustle around the basket appeared to invigorate his teammates on the starting unit, which scored all but two points during a 21-6 push that yielded a 61-46 lead with 5:44 to play.

Maryland shot 59 percent in the second half, including 3 of 8 from three-point range, and limited Georgia Southern to 33 percent for the game. The Terrapins also made more free throws (11) than the Eagles attempted (eight).

Georgia Southern (2-3), which is a member of the Southern Conference, had three players score in double figures, with C.J. Reed logging a game-high 15 points, although the senior guard missed 10 of 16 shots. Junior guard Eric Ferguson had 13 points and junior guard Tre Bussey scored 11.

“If we had hit a couple more shots, we probably could have made them tighten up and had a chance at this thing,” Eagles Coach Charlton Young said. “Turgeon made some adjustments in the second half and changed the lineup. The guy is a big-time coach.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering many local and national beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He joined The Washington Post sports department in 1990 as a member of the high school staff and worked as a copy editor and assignment editor for almost 19 years.
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