Stopping Alex Len hasn’t exactly proven an unsolvable puzzle for opposing defenses this season. Throw some muscle at him through double teams, the typical scouting report reads, and he’ll back off. If the 7-foot-1 center exhibits fight, much like he did early against Devin Thomas and Wake Forest, things can snowball. Best to not afford Len that opportunity from the outset.
Nor did Virginia do anything particularly revolutionary Sunday afternoon, when defenders boomeranged back and forth to double-team Len, rendering Maryland’s biggest inside threat a helpless spectator outside the paint.
“They were doubling Alex,” guard Nick Faust said. “It was tough on us, it was tough on him. He had a hard time getting the ball out of the double team. Virginia just did a good job executing on him defensively. He’s getting where it’s comfortable. He just had two guys on him. It’s tough, trying to make a play out of it.”
Each time Len caught the ball on a post-entry pass, the Cavaliers swarmed him and swatted away. His percentages weren’t exactly poor, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds on 3 of 6 shooting and 3 for 4 from the free-throw line, but at times he disappeared altogether. And the Terps needed more than that.
“I didn’t think he was very good the first half,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “The physicality got to him a little bit. He had to chase around Justin Anderson. That really wasn’t fair to him. We were trying to figure it out. They did a good job. They doubled him, made it tough. I just kept telling him, he has to get to the boards.
“It wasn’t his best day.”
Virginia’s defense derailed Maryland’s inside-out principles, forcing Turgeon to turn to a predominantly guard-heavy lineup midway through the first half. For the game’s duration, only one post player was on the floor at any given time. That in itself left Len limited in his looks. Only during garbage time did he finally string together some solid sequences.
It seemed indicative of larger offensive problems, stemming from that ever-persistent thorn in Maryland’s side: execution.
“We didn’t do what we were supposed to do very well tonight,” guard Logan Aronhalt said. “Guys were supposed to space the floor, one cutting to the rim at all times. We just didn’t find open areas. Guys were stagnant, not really moving. When teams double team like that, you have to make them pay. You have to make them pay. We never made them pay.”
>> Dez Wells made multiple three-pointers for the second straight game after doing so zero times through Maryland’s first 22, but Jake Layman endured an ice-cold day from the field, shooting 1 for 7 overall and 0 for 4 from beyond the arc.
The Terps’ shooting woes were juxtaposed against Virginia, which for the second straight game rode a blistering offensive performance. Joe Harris was 7 for 8 from the field and 3 for 4 from three-point range, while Paul Jesperson connected on all four three-point attempts after halftime.
“We were right there, hovering at the eight, 10-point mark for four or five minutes,” Aronhalt said. “They just kept making shots. Kept making big threes that really took the air out of us.”
>> In his first game at Comcast Center since reneging on his commitment to Maryland after Gary Williams stepped down, Anderson set career-highs with 17 points and nine rebounds. Flashing a nifty stepback jumper and some fire throughout, Anderson was showered with jeers of “traitor” and “we don’t need you” by the crowd.
“He played an amazing game today,” Faust said. “I’ve never seen him make so many shots ever in my life. He played a great game. He was hitting jump shots, attacking very strong. He played a great game today and did a great job.”
>> Pe’Shon Howard continued to make strides, playing a solid 17 minutes off the bench and defending Harris particularly well. He also hit his first three-pointer since the 51-50 win over North Carolina State, and finished with five points.
>> James Padgett (six minutes) and Charles Mitchell (nine minutes) were each limited by Virginia’s size. Aronhalt tied his season-high with 20 minutes in Turgeon’s attempts to keep a smaller lineup on the court.