Maryland coach Mark Turgeon could have grumbled extensively about perimeter defense or a so-so stretch from his second team or an inability to hit a jump shot if he so chose.
Instead after Tuesday’s 83-74 defeat of Lafayette, he looked to something bigger, something broader, something that augers far better for the Terrapins moving forward.
“Our offense is way ahead of really any time it was last year, to be quite honest with you,” Turgeon said.
Maryland (3-1) just shredded Lafayette for 1.34 points per possession, better than last season’s best figure of 1.28 points per possession in a defeat of Notre Dame. It was the Terps’ most efficient offensive day since managing 1.47 points per possession against Longwood on Feb. 9, 2011.
The box score Turgeon scoured was littered with welcome signs. Five players reached double figures, with Alex Len’s 16 points a team-high. The Terps shot better than 50 percent. Junior point guard Pe’Shon Howard (six assists, two turnovers) enjoyed another steady day.
It was a far cry from Turgeon’s first season, which was best defined by a chronic game of tug-of-war with volume-shooting guard Terrell Stoglin.
It was difficult to blame either man. Turgeon sought to instill his principles and philosophy in his first season with an undermanned program. Stoglin wanted to win and no doubt figured he was the conduit to force things to happen for a limited team.
The struggle between coach and player ended when Stoglin was suspended for a year in April and ultimately turned pro. But Turgeon avoided a similar situation by revamping the roster in less than a year, significantly upgrading the talent level on a team starting to find its way.
The resulting balance is embraced throughout the roster and was especially evident Tuesday.
“It’s obvious,” guard Nick Faust said. “Several guys are in double digits every night. We’ve got a good team this year. Everybody can score the ball.”
It creates multiple wide avenues for success rather than one or two narrow paths. As Lafayette doubled Len, Maryland received aggressive play out of Faust as he enjoyed his best game of the season.
It also was a productive day for senior forward James Padgett, who exploited the double coverage on Len when teammates were able to find him near the basket.
“Sharing the ball leaves a lot of open shots, a lot of easy layups, a lot of easy drives,” Padgett said. “It’s moving the ball and makes the defense shift, and we wind up finding a lot more open spots. … Instead of worrying about getting your points off offensive rebounds, there’s a chance the ball might get swung and you might accidentally be open and get easy dunks like I did today.”
Such efficiency won’t happen every night for the Terps, who play host to Georgia Southern on Saturday. But the source of Tuesday’s offensive display might be a trait that comes to define Turgeon’s second team in College Park.
“We just have balance,” Turgeon said. “We have good players, and they want to win and they’re willing to share the ball and do the right things.”