When asked this week about the Charmin portion of the Maryland schedule, coach Mark Turgeon said — among other objectives — it was an opportunity to boost the confidence of his young players. Little did anyone know that the plan would include giving three freshmen their first college start.
After Wednesday’s 100-68 rout of over-matched Maryland Eastern Shore, Turgeon could check one of the items off his list as freshmen Shaquille Cleare (12 points), Jake Layman (10 points, four rebounds), and Seth Allen (eight points, eight assists) excelled before 9,813.
“No one was in trouble,” Turgeon said of his lineup changes. “You never know what lies ahead. I want everyone to know what it feels like to start in a game. I’ve never done that before. But I have never had a team like this that likes each other as much as they do and are as deep as this team is.”
With Maryland (7-1) opening an eight-game road home-stand with the first six spaced out against teams from non-BCS conference schools, December is the calm before the ACC storm which follows in January.
On Wednesday night, two other non-starters, senior Logan Aronhalt (17 points) and freshman Charles Mitchell (10 points, 11 rebounds), also got in on the fun. Aronhalt hit five of seven shots from beyond the arc to improve his 3-point shooting percentage to 65.2, second best in the nation.
“I think Logan’s probably the best shooter in the country if you leave him open,” Mitchell said. “When a team plays zone on us, we know he’s going to shoot them out of the zone.”
It was the seventh straight win for Maryland (7-1), the most decisive margin of victory in Turgeon’s two seasons, and the most points the Terrapins have produced since scoring 116 against Longwood two years ago. After Turgeon cleared the bench with 2:30 left, freshman Conner Lipinsk, a former walk-on, hit four free throws, including the one that put the Terps at triple-digits.
Also contributing to the balanced attack were sophomores Alex Len (nine points, nine rebounds), Dez Wells (seven points, five assists), and Nick Faust (10 points, seven assists, two steals), who passed up several layups to feed teammates.
“Nick is trying so hard to do what I am asking. That’s what I appreciate,” Turgeon said. “Nick isn’t caught up in winning, just doing what I am telling him to do.”
With junior Pe’Shon Howard slowed by an upset stomach, Allen and Faust shared point guard duties, setting the tone for an offense that had 27 assists on 38 baskets.
Maryland went on an early 9-0 run to take an 11-3 lead, which UMES (0-8) never challenged. Cleare had two buckets, Layman a dunk, and Wells finished off the run with a three-point-play.
With only seven scholarship players and no player taller than 6-foot-6 who scored a basket, UMES had no way to get back into the game against the big, deep Terps, who shot 61.3 percent and out-rebounded the Hawks 43-34. Had it not been for the shooting of Kyree Jones (24 points) and Troy Snyder (19 points), who combined for seven 3-pointers, the score would have been more lopsided.
Expect more of the same Saturday when Maryland faces another team from the Mid-East Athletic Conference, South Carolina State (4-4). Turgeon plans to juggle his starting lineup again.
“There are no bruised egos because of who we started,” Turgeon said. “We will have a different lineup on Saturday as well.”