Nonconference games are over for Terrapins
With the Maryland basketball team riding an 11-game winning streak, the crowd was inexplicably small and quiet on a less-than-festive New Year's Day at Comcast Center. The intimate gathering allowed many of the announced crowd of 8,971 to hear some of the louder instructions of coach Mark Turgeon.
Late in the game, with an 81-63 victory over Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis assured, Logan Aronhalt drew the ire of Turgeon when he returned an inbound pass to Jake Layman, who was still behind the baseline, costing the Terps possession.
"Run the play!" Turgeon yelled.
"I thought I saw an opening," Aronhalt said after the game, in which he scored 10 points. "That turnover was all me."
Other than a slow start from his team, Aronhalt's error was one of the few complaints Turgeon had in an equal-opportunity effort that saw all 10 rotation players on the floor for at least 14 minutes and all make at least two field goals.
Freshman guard Seth Allen (13 points, three assists) was indispensable in the backcourt, while senior James Padgett (eight points, six rebounds), freshman Shaquille Cleare (eight points, five rebounds) and sophomore Alex Len (nine points, five rebounds, two blocks) were interchangeable parts in the frontcourt as the Terps outrebounded the smaller Jaguars 35-21 in another factory-produced victory.
Riding a 12-game winning streak and with the nonconference portion of the schedule finally in their rearview mirror, the Terps (12-1) are anxious for Saturday's ACC opener against Virginia Tech.
"We're really excited about the competition. We're ready to play against teams that are just as good or maybe better than us," sophomore guard Dez Wells (nine points, four rebounds) said. "We want to see how we match up."
Turgeon also expressed his desire for a stringent test. All of the Terps' wins in their current streak have come by at least seven points.
"I am eager for conference play because we have gotten better," Turgeon said. "Mentally we weren't ready to play today. Saturday we will be ready for it. You have to ask the guys. We won the games. We did what we had to do."
Hitting eight of its first 12 shots, IUPUI (6-12) was ready early for its big challenge. Three-pointers by senior Greg Rice (12 points, seven assists) and junior Donovan Gibbs (13 points) and three layups by sophomore Lyonell Gaines (14 points, seven rebounds) helped stake the Jaguars to a 19-9 lead in the first seven minutes.
The Terps rallied only after Turgeon yanked all five starters. Late in the run, Allen steadied the Maryland offense with 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. Moments after Aronhalt entered, he drained a 3-pointer, igniting a 14-0 surge. Padgett fed Layman (four points, four assists) for a layup and added a layup and two free throws. When Wells finished off the spurt with a three-point play, Maryland had the lead for good at 23-19.
There was little drama the rest of the way as Maryland steadily built its lead and began considering how much the crowd, the competition and the intensity will change with ACC teams Virginia Tech (9-4) and Florida State (8-4) visiting Comcast in the next eight days.
"We're just really excited to get in the conference and prove people wrong," junior Pe'Shon Howard (eight points) said. "A lot of people are saying we haven't been playing top caliber teams. It's kind of a test to see where we are a team and show people how hard we've been working."