For a team that prides itself on working inside-out and feeding off its front court, the Maryland men’s basketball team had certainly struggled to execute that particular phase of its offense. Coach Mark Turgeon has called post-entry passes a “lost art,” but in recent games the Terrapins have simply seemed lost.
But from the opening possession Saturday afternoon against Wake Forest, when James Padgett took a direct post-entry feed and spun for a nifty baby hook, Maryland firmly established its inside presence. The result? A season-high 67.3 field goal percentage, one of the most effective outings in program history, 44 points inside and a 26-point blowout of undersize Wake Forest.
Much of the Terps’ success in the paint directly correlated to their opponent’s utter lack of desire to defend inside. The Demon Deacons rarely fronted the post and hardly double-teamed, getting backed down by Padgett, Alex Len, Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare, who combined for 33 points on 16-of-19 shooting.
“There’s always an emphasis” on working through the post, guard Logan Aronhalt said. “Certain times, guys haven’t played well and it hasn’t worked for us. Today, it seemed that everyone was on top of their games. Alex was super aggressive on the inside. Really opens things up on the floor for us.”
And when Wake Forest finally got the picture and sent guards to double inside, its poor rotation left shooters like Jake Layman (12 points) and Logan Aronhalt (13 points) free on the wing for open three-pointers.
“We didn’t practice against that,” Turgeon said. “We had seen it before. We talked about it. They had only shown it once before at Georgia Tech. It’s something they probably don’t practice a lot, but we’ll see in a few weeks. It should be easy for Alex and Shaq. They both just turn and face and throw right over it. It was good. Good to see. First time they doubled, Jake hit a three. Next time we got a dunk. You have to make them pay when they double you.”
Said Aronhalt: “Just watching from the sidelines early in the game, I could see wide-open threes. I was almost drooling, knowing I would get open shots. They all did a great job dishing out when they got double-teamed. I was wide open, Jake was wide open. And we knocked them down.”
So the Terps weren’t exactly challenged, but that they managed 86 points despite 19 turnovers says plenty about the offense’s effectiveness, which continues to take massive steps forward ever since those abysmal outings against Miami and North Carolina.
“Sign of maturity, growing up,” Turgeon said. “We all know that the one thing we didn’t do well was take care of the ball. It’s mind-boggling. It’s frustrating. Our turnovers are all correctable. They’re just all so silly. As a coaching staff, we’re like, if we turn it over we’re going to stand up and cheer, say next play, move on and try to get a stop. If you take away turnovers, it could have been really fun today.”
Emptying the bench and scoring its biggest win since pounding Monmouth by 33 points was plenty fun enough, a total reversal from the emotional low of losing to Florida State on Wednesday. And while the temptation to get too giddy over a runaway win might be easy, it’s clear the Terps are operating their offense far more effectively than ever before.
“Coach has reiterated that to us all this week, and the past couple days,” Aronhalt said. “He’s said, ‘Hey guys, we’re right there.’ Defense is great. We’re starting to make shots. We’re really coming together as a team. We didn’t get the game against Florida State but tonight we really executed well.”
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