So that is what it’s like to play from a huge lead.
Forgive Maryland if it wasn’t too familiar to rout an opponent. Yet for nearly all of the Terrapins’ 75-63 defeat of Samford, they were in complete control.
“It was fun,” guard Terrell Stoglin said. “I feel like nobody forced anything. Everybody was having more fun playing with each other. We’re looking more like a team.”
Maryland enjoyed its largest margin of victory for the season. At one point, it led by 21 points (also a season-high). And it emptied its bench in a victory for the first time all year.
The Terps (9-3) led by double digits for the last 24:45 and held an 18-point lead over the Bulldogs (3-9) with less than four minutes to play. In short, they did precisely what they should have done to a struggling nonconference visitor.
“The score won’t really indicate,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “People will look at the score and say ‘Maryland’s still struggling.’ I’m OK with that.”
What he wasn’t OK with was how Maryland gave away portions of its lead when there were still regulars on the floor.
“We’ve had 10-point leads, but for us that’s like two,” Turgeon said. “Today we had 20-, 22-point leads. We really didn’t know how to act. Hopefully we’ll have a few more of those this year.”
A half-dozen other observations from Maryland’s sixth straight victory …
* Turgeon tosses team —- from practice
Turgeon says he has high standards for the Terps. He made a point about enforcing those standards Friday.
Maryland practiced in the morning. Well, for 30 minutes, anyway. Turgeon threw the Terps out of the gym, displeased with how they were preparing.
“If we learn how to practice better, we can keep making those steps,” Turgeon said. “I threw them out yesterday. We had a morning practice. I threw them out and brought them back last night. Hopefully that will help them and make them realize I’m not going to put up with it and they have to start practicing better.”
Needless to say, Turgeon’s response to lackluster play had some trickle down beyond basketball.
“Yeah, we all had plans,” Stoglin said.
So much for those.
* Faust triples up.
So much for freshman guard Nick Faust‘s slump.
Faust was just 5-for-30 from 3-point range entering Saturday, including 2-for-21 over the previous eight games.
Then came a 13-point outburst that included a 3-for-4 outing from the outside.
“You bank your first one in, you probably figure it’s going to be your day, right?” Turgeon said.
The scoring total matched the second-largest of Faust’s first season. More importantly, his defense remains and solid and he’s cut down on turnovers. In three games since Pe’Shon Howard returned —- and Faust was moved almost entirely off the ball —- Faust has 10 assists and one turnover in 73 minutes.
* Advantage Terps —- finally.
Senior Sean Mosley‘s layup with 16:09 left in the first half gave Maryland a 9-5 lead.
It also handed the Terrapins a positive scoring margin for the season.
That’s no small thing. Maryland had been outscored for the year since the 13:43 mark of the first half of its Nov. 17 game against Alabama —- a span of 397:34.
After Saturday’s win, the Terps hold a nine-point edge on all opponents combined for the season.
* Pe’Shon crashes the glass.
Howard’s passing ability was already on display in his first two games back from a broken foot.
Saturday, he led Maryland with nine rebounds a game after grabbing six boards.
“I wasn’t even trying last game, so I made a more assertive effort in practice and today in the game to get as many rebounds as I can,” Howard said. “It’s really a lot of work from the big guys. They just hold their box outs. I don’t know if they’re upset about it, but I just come in and pick up the rebounds.”
The sample size is small, but Howard is averaging 7.1 rebounds per 40 minutes this season —- more than double his 3.1 rebounds per 40 minute total from his freshman year.
* Increased efficiency.
Maryland’s offense has become sharper in the two games since Alex Len debuted. But the 7-foot-1 center, who collected 13 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes against Samford, isn’t the sole reason the Terps are improved on offense.
“We’re getting better, we’re getting used to our system,” Turgeon said. “We’re taking better shots. We were shooting 8-10 bad shots a game, and they were allowed to play through those. Now they’re not playing through those as much.”
Whatever the root cause, Maryland is enjoying its most efficient stretch of the season. The Terps have scored 1.1 points per possession or better in three straight games. They hit that total a combined three times in their first nine games.
* Up next.
Maryland’s six-game homestand comes to a close Tuesday when Cornell visits Comcast Center. The Big Red (4-8) lost to Bucknell 63-60 on Saturday.
—- Patrick Stevens