The Comcast Center crowd erupted in cheers when Conner Lipinski’s fourth free throw dropped softly through the net and the scoreboard ticked to triple digits Wednesday evening, only slightly louder than they yelled when Lipinski, Spencer Barks and Jacob Susskind all entered with just more than two minutes left in a blowout of Maryland-Eastern Shore, joining John Auslander, a junior forward who’s the clear 11th man off Coach Mark Turgeon’s bench, and Logan Aronhalt, a regular within the 10-deep rotation.
Alongside transfers Evan Smotrycz and Varun Ram, who are sitting out the 2012-13 season because of NCAA eligibility rules, Lipinski, Barks, Susskind and Auslander make up Maryland’s scout unit, an unheralded bunch of workhorses who arrive early and stay late, learning both the Terps’ playbook and that of their upcoming opponent.
“We put a lot into our scouts,” Turgeon said. “We didn’t put anything into this scout, probably tell by the way we guarded. We put a lot into our scouts, and those guys with Evan and Varun, who can’t suit up, they have a lot on their plate. They have to learn all our plays and the other plays, and if they don’t run it right I’m on them. If you’ve ever watched us prepare for a game, you’d appreciate those guys a lot more. Our guys appreciate them, because we respect each other and what we’re about. That’s why they were so excited for them.”
Of course, this made it all the more sweet when Lipinski sank all four free throw attempts and Barks did the same with his two opportunities, each scoring their first points of the season.
“It’s a lot of fun to be out there with them at the end of the game, trying to get everyone a bucket,” Aronhalt said. “We almost did tonight. They just work so hard every day, and they don’t get any of the glory for it. No one’s calling any of their names out there. It’s a good feeling to get them on the floor finally and get them some minutes.”
Same goes for Auslander, a de facto player-coach who stands about as much during games as Turgeon, if only to provide added emphasis for certain talking points to his teammates on the floor. He made 1 of 2 from the line Wednesday night.
“They’re the people who push us in practice,” Charles Mitchell said. “There’s not a practice when he doesn’t beat us up in the post or goes hard every play. We’re playing, they’re not, just seeing them go hard, give maximum effort, you respect that. I tell them every day, I thank you all. If you go hard, that makes me want to go hard.
“They’re very encouraging. I know if I don’t know a lot of stuff, if I go to John, Evan, Spencer, they listen to me and show me what I need to do. If I do something wrong, they’ll tell me. They’re like my older brothers. I really thank them for everything they do. They push me to another level, and I’m doing the same for them. It’s not a war, but just pushing us to our limits to see how far we could do.”
Earlier this week, swingman Dez Wells credited the scout team with his improved defense. Other players have thanked them for simulating opposing looks, making live action less surprising. Even more unsurprising were the starters, rising from their seats with each shot taken by Auslander or Susskind or the others, clapping and smiling.
“That’s just great. That shows you our team,” Turgeon said. “They were all around them in the timeout, I could hardly get a word in, they were like play hard, you got to do this, it’s your time.”