Both halves of Maryland’s 29-point win over Delaware State on Saturday began in similar fashion. The two sides traded baskets. A layup here, a jumper there. Then, less than four minutes into the half, Shaquille Cleare stripped off the warmups, jogged to the scorer’s table and checked in for Alex Len.
With NBA scouts from the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards in attendance, Len turned in an unimpressive performance, with six points, two rebounds and four fouls in 17 minutes uncharacteristic of the future lottery pick. In the first half, Len missed two early shots and got yanked after three and a half minutes. In the second half, an early foul earned him an ever quicker seat, though he returned to replace James Padgett after just 41 seconds on the bench.
Granted, it mattered little, especially with Charles Mitchell compensating with a career game and the Terrapins running away with a 79-50 victory, their 11th straight.
“He’s not going to play great every day,” Dez Wells said. “That’s impossible. Nobody can do that. As long as he’s aggressive and the guys around him can encourage him and pick him up, just like we do other guys, we’ll be fine. We have more than Alex in the post. You can’t just double team anybody on our team. We have so many dynamics to our team.”
Especially if power forwards like Mitchell and Padgett turn into consistent forces down low, opponents won’t survive double-teaming and collapsing onto Len. Of course, with the way Len has dominated so frequently this season, there’s little cause for concern after setting season-lows in points and rebounds.
Turgeon — who loudly barked, “Wake up, Alex, wake up,” at one point — said that the Terps have been practicing with Len and Cleare on the court together, but have been unable to slot them side by side in games because of their opponents’ lack of height. Delaware State was missing 6-foot-10 center Kendall Gray, consequently fielding a starting lineup with no player taller than 6-7.
But where Len lagged, his fellow post players picked up the slack, like they must do if a similar situation arises during ACC play. Padgett and Cleare combined to make all five of their field goal attempts. Mitchell was stellar with 14 rebounds and 19 points.
“That’s why we have such a good team,” Seth Allen said. “We’re so deep. When you have depth, guys like Charles come off the bench and give you the best they can do.”
>> Maryland committed just 10 turnovers, a new season low, while forcing 19, season most this season to the Morehead State game (20). What’s more, the Terps attempted just nine three-pointers, a new season low, but made better than 50 percent of their field goal attempts for the third straight game.
“Coach wants us to be a better executing team,” Wells said. “I felt like we came out, executed better than we had in the past. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Against Delaware State’s spread-out matchup zone, Maryland went away from its zone offense and began running man-to-man motion and high pick-and-rolls, which resulted in some easy layups.
>> Maryland held a moment of silence for former football coach Joe Krivak, who passed away this week at 77. Kevin Sheehan had the call on the Terrapin Sports Radio Network in place of Johnny Holliday, who attended the funeral.
>> Terps great Steve Francis was seated courtside and got a nice ovation from the sizable Comcast Center crowd of 12,389.