Pe’Shon Howard surveyed the fast break, Nick Faust streaking ahead of him, a 7-foot-1 Ukrainian steam engine trailing not far behind. Howard hesitated, then hit Alex Len, who two-handed a monstrous dunk, then hung on the rim for an extra second to gaze upon those who leaped too late before he bolted back on defense. The Maryland center’s slam came just seconds after he swatted away yet another LIU-Brooklyn shot on the other end.
Not everything will come so easy down the road, especially given that not many Division I programs field lineups with no player taller than 6 feet 8, but Maryland enjoyed its festival of dunks just the same Friday night at Comcast Center. The Terrapins traded baskets throughout the second half with the pesky Blackbirds, ultimately surging away for a 91-74 win, their most points under second-year Coach Mark Turgeon and their highest-scoring game since Feb. 9, 2011, against Longwood.
Turgeon fretted all offseason about facing LIU-Brooklyn, the two-time defending Northeast Conference champion with a veteran-laden lineup and NCAA tournament experience. But abandoning his usual 10-man rotation in favor of stability in the second half created a torrent of offense, wearing down the Blackbirds.
Freshman guard Seth Allen led Maryland (2-1) with 19 points, 15 of which came on three-pointers. Len added 18 points, most of which came on low-post layups and put-back dunks. Howard was relentlessly efficient at running the offense, finishing with 13 assists, seven points and seven rebounds against just one turnover, while Dez Wells added 15 points. Picking and choosing their spots from beyond the arc, the Terps shot 66.7 percent from three-point range and 56.3 percent overall.
“It felt pretty good,” Allen said. “We kept switching momentum. They could really score in transition. They tried to switch it up, go man and zone. When they were in zone, we were ready. When they were in man, we worked inside-out with screens.”
Keeping with his usual candor, Turgeon said Thursday afternoon that his Terps were far behind where they should be at this stage. But learning to hold leads in games will prove a virtue for this young team as the offensive sets and defensive mentality are molded during practices.
LIU-Brooklyn stayed competitive for some time, pushing the ball upcourt and firing quick jumpers to quickly kill Maryland’s momentum. But with 4 minutes 9 seconds remaining, Allen, who played for 14 straight minutes as the Terps pulled away, stuck a reverse layup in transition before Howard hit his first field goal since the season opener against Kentucky, a dagger three-pointer from the right corner. A quick Blackbirds timeout did little. Maryland was up 82-68 by then. It was never close again.
Julian Boyd finished with a game-high 22 points for LIU-Brooklyn, which fell to 0-3 and, much like Morehead State against the Terps on Monday, was rendered gassed. Wells, meanwhile, had his best game since transferring this offseason from Xavier, supplementing his scoring with eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and three high-flying blocks.
“I don’t know why it changed tonight” for Wells, Turgeon said. “I sat down today and talked to him. Said ‘I think you’re putting way too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to be the guy every night for us to be successful. You just have to be Dez Wells.’ He got going early. That really helped. That’s the kid I thought he was going to be. He just hopefully will continue to improve on that.”
What resulted were marked improvements as the game wore on. The Terps had 12 turnovers in the first half but only three in the second. They had 19 assists and shot 61.8 percent from the field after the break. At times early, Maryland played out of control, splitting screens and charging unabashed into the lane. Once things settled, however, every player scored, just like in the 67-45 blowout win over Morehead State. James Padgett added nine points, Shaquille Cleare had eight and Faust had six.
“No. There’s not,” Turgeon said when asked if there are enough minutes to keep rotating 10 players. “But guys have to grow up and put Maryland first. You better play well when you’re in. We shortened it a little in the second half. They’ve got to keep themselves happy.”
So long as the convincing wins keep coming for these Terps, that shouldn’t be a problem.