Various media throughout the ACC had an understandable question as Maryland wound through the first half of its conference tournament opener against Wake Forest.
Who, exactly, is Jonathan Thomas?
It turns out he was the provider of some of the Terrapins’ most valuable minutes in an 82-60 rout of the Demon Deacons.
Thomas played 12 minutes, his most since before Thanksgiving, and helped erode Wake Forest with his work at both ends of the floor.
“Just the fact coach trusted me to be in the ACC tournament when it’s basically do or die —- win or go home,” said the junior, who earned a spot on the Maryland roster through preseason walk-on tryouts. “That really meant a lot, so I knew I had to take control.”
Coach Mark Turgeon liberally substituted throughout the first half, hoping to exhaust a Wake Forest rotation even thinner than the one Maryland usually utilizes. That meant getting some rest for guards and handing an opportunity to Thomas, who averaged 4.2 minutes over the last five games after playing sparingly while Pe’Shon Howard was healthy.
Thomas made a 3-pointer in the first half, but his greatest contributions were on defense. He had two steals, but the more lasting evidence of his work was the quiet second half C.J. Harris had after working for his 13 points before the break.
“I thought JT helped us in the Virginia game [on Sunday],” Turgeon said. “He went in and played well and I wanted to stay fresh. They didn’t have a lot of subs, so I was trying to be a little bit deeper than them in the first half and wear their guys down. JT went in and really played well and really defended, made the three.”
Turgeon also wasn’t particularly pleased with his reserve frontcourt players in the first half, which provided only even greater incentive for him to stick with a smaller lineup and use Thomas some more.
“He did a great job coming in and making the three and playing Harris tough,” guard Sean Mosley said. “Coach wanted to wear them down, and JT and all the other guys who came in the game gave great energy and we didn’t have a slippage through the whole game.”
The steals were the first of Thomas’ career. The 3-pointer was his first since the day after Thanksgiving.
And there was little question that once Maryland’s biggest rout of the season was complete, Thomas played a major role in earning it.
“Especially the way we won, by the margin we won by, it really felt like we’re where we’re supposed to be,” Thomas said. “We didn’t fall off.”
Neither did Thomas, who’s a bit more of a known quantity after his strong day off the bench.
—- Patrick Stevens