Capitalizing on a key second-half run that barely withstood a late Eagles rally, the Terps evened their conference record at 3-3, rebounding from a sluggish loss at North Carolina with a 64-59 win late Tuesday night in College Park.
Its attack, at times nightmarish in January, looked markedly better, displaying improved aggressiveness that found open shooters and returning to the unselfish principles which marked November and December.
Tuesday could have been a confidence-booster before consecutive trips to Duke and Florida State, one final deep breath before the plunge. The pesky Eagles entered with a 1-3 league record, though the losses came by a total of nine points. Instead of a rout, Maryland found itself mired in another conference fight, trading baskets and runs.
But after an exhausting stretch of disappointing losses and one heart-thumping win over North Carolina State, this one felt relatively comfortable.
“We’re still in the search,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “But I’ll say that in March, I’ll say that 18 years from now when I’m still coaching. That’s just a line I use, and you guys will get used to it. Tonight we figured out how to win. We drew some things up we’d never practiced. We figured out a way to win, be more complete.”
Alex Len led the way with 16 points and 13 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season, while Jake Layman added 15 in his third career start, shooting 5 for 9 from the field, including a three-pointer midway through the latter period that sparked the Comcast Center crowd of 13,941 and capped off an 8-0 run that put Maryland ahead for good.
Maryland (15-4) boasted its tallest starting lineup of the season and fifth in six ACC games, slotting Layman and Charles Mitchell alongside three sophomores to contrast Boston College’s lineup, which started just one player taller than 6 feet 5. The Terps took advantage early of an opposing lineup more reminiscent of their nonconference foes, finding Mitchell and Len for baby hooks on their opening two possessions, while the Eagles finished with just 12 points in the paint.
Boston College (9-9), meanwhile, was frigid from beyond the arc early, missing its first eight three-point attempts, but canned five straight to overcome a seven-point deficit and take a 29-24 lead. Len gathered his own missed layup and Seth Allen answered with a three-pointer, tying the game at 29 heading into intermission.
The Terps still struggled with their nasty turnover issue, including a few unforced mistakes early that allowed the Eagles to linger. Throughout its recent slide, Maryland’s issues have trended more towards errant shooting and youthful mistakes rather than poor execution. Against a bottom-feeding Boston College team, Maryland missed close-range hooks on solid looks and even a wide-open layup near the end of halftime, making just 11 of 30 shots by the break.
“We were kind of hanging our heads at halftime,” Turgeon said. “I said, ‘Guys, Boston College is good. . . . We have to figure out a way to win the game by one. Figure out a way to win this sucker by one tonight.’ And we won by five. A good win.”
Nine of the Terps’ 10 players scored, returning to the depth-heavy principles that gave them a 13-game winning streak during nonconference play, a stretch that, given their recent struggles, seems quite long ago. Faust finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Logan Aronhalt shook off his slump with eight points on 3-of-7 shooting, his first field goals since the Miami game, as Maryland went small to combat Boston College’s lack of size.
“We’ve been practicing that a little more this past week,” Layman said. “It gives me a chance to move around a little more. We felt comfortable in it. It worked for us. We were in it for about 15 minutes in the second half, and that got us the lead back.”
But neither team made a defining late burst, so the game trudged along towards the finish. Up five points with less than a minute left, Faust made a key strip-steal of Patrick Heckmann in traffic. Four fouls later and three made free throws later, sandwiching a Heckmann three-pointer, Maryland secured just its second win in five games, entering arguably its season’s most brutal stretch, finally weathering another ACC grinder.