The Maryland basketball team may have discovered its most effective starting lineup, and it contains three sophomores and two freshmen.
Gone from the original unit, which started 10 games this season, are junior Pe’Shon Howard and senior James Padgett, relegated to bench roles, at least for now. In their place are point guard Seth Allen and center Shaquille Cleare, two exciting freshmen who provide a little more risk-reward for Coach Mark Turgeon.
“I think Nick felt very comfortable at the point, I think Seth was comfortable at the two, I think Pe’Shon was comfortable coming off the bench,” Turgeon said. “Now, whether it stays that way, we’ll see. I like the direction it’s heading.”
Maryland’s point-guard situation has generated much buzz over recent weeks, culminating in Nick Faust’s move to the position for the upset win over 14th-ranked North Carolina State. According to Turgeon, Faust will continue to see repetitions at point guard, especially with the starting unit, while Howard seemed comfortable coming off the bench versus the Wolfpack. Howard hit his first three field goals of ACC play and made a couple big assists, playing through a key second-half stretch as a veteran presence, though his offensive consistency still needs work.
Of course, the roles on this Terps team are hardly defined, fluctuating depending on individual performances, but this is where Turgeon stands heading into Saturday’s tilt at North Carolina.
“I think it takes pressure off him,” Turgeon said of Allen. “When we’re struggling, Seth needs to score. And when he’s scoring, we’re pretty good. So I think that takes running the team pressure off him. He’ll still practice the point, he’ll still play a little point, but mostly two as of today.”
Allen’s best stretch Wednesday came in the opening minutes, when he stuck two athletic layups in traffic to give Maryland an 8-0 lead. That came with Faust at point guard and Allen creating from the wing, knifing through the lane off the dribble rather than setting the offense himself.
“It’s helped me a little bit more,” Allen said. “Point guard, you really have to run the team, make sure everyone’s in the right spots. When Nick’s playing the point, I’m helping him because he’s not familiar with the plays as much. He’s helping me at the two. We’re learning, getting better as we go, but I’ll keep continuing playing hard.”
Allen remains Maryland’s second-leading scorer in its four ACC games, putting up an 11.7 points-per-game average boosted by his 21-point breakout game against Virginia Tech. Alex Len leads Maryland with 14.3 points per conference game, while Dez Wells is third with 9.75.
The first of Turgeon’s four prized recruits to commit to Maryland, Allen has made the biggest impact thus far, earning himself a spot in the starting rotation against Miami. The Terps certainly have no dearth of wing weapons, but Allen brings a unique perimeter game, making 37.7 percent of three-pointers while also flashing the speed and strength to finish at the rim.
“My penetration and kicking at the point guard spot really helps him,” Faust said. “He’s a great shooter, likes to drive, things of that sort. Him off the ball, being able to play like he did in high school, definitely helps him. We talk about it, he says he feels a lot more comfortable at the two. It’s a great transition for both of us.”