The addition of Pe’Shon Howard and Alex Len to Maryland’s rotation provides the Terrapins with much-needed depth.
Quietly, it also adds a major item to Mark Turgeon’s coaching toolbox: Some control in doling out playing time.
“You have them rather than them having you,” Turgeon said after Wednesday’s 83-72 defeat of Albany. “That’s big for us.”
It’s a new luxury for the Turgeon, who operated with only seven recruited scholarship players for the first nine games. Howard bolstered the backcourt when he returned from a broken foot last week, and Len fortified the frontcourt Wednesday in his debut after an NCAA-mandated 10-game suspension.
Both were thrust into the starting lineup and provided significant contributions as Maryland (8-3) earned its first double-digit victory of the season. Len had 14 points and eight rebounds. Howard added 11 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
No one matched their season average in minutes, and Turgeon finally could make a point with a substitution pattern rather than tolerating miscues.
Late in the first half, freshman Nick Faust took his third 3-pointer of the game - all misses - and Albany scrambled back to hit a 3-pointer. Turgeon used a timeout, and Faust was on the bench for the final 2:36 before the break.
It was a lesson learned, too: Faust shot 3-for-4 in the second half, opting to drive rather than try any more outside shots the rest of the game.
“Nick shoots two air balls,” Turgeon said. “When you have six scholarship guys, it’s like ‘Hey, you’re all right, buddy.’ He shoots two air balls when you have nine, [you say] ‘Quit shooting the ball. Drive it.’ There’s a big difference. You can coach different, which is fun.”
It ultimately will help the Terps, who play host to Samford (3-8) on Saturday, as well. The Terps set some big targets at halftime against Albany. Howard, seeing he had seven assists, hoped to double it since he was making his teammates better. Terrell Stoglin, feeling plenty comfortable, wanted to match the four 3-pointers he made in the first half.
Both fell short of their impromptu goals — Stoglin still had a career-high six 3-pointers — but the point of those aspirations was to allow teammates to hold them accountable for their play.
Now their coach can effectively do the same.
“It was the first day, but there’s a lot of things where guys said ‘I knew I should have done this, I knew I should have done that,’ ” Howard said. “Before, you could kind of get away with that and not come out. This time, you have to do your job to stay in the game. You have to play defense, you have to do the right things on offense, you have to take the right shots.”
Very little beyond foul trouble cost any of Maryland’s regulars any playing time in the early portion of the season. Of the Terps’ nine recruited scholarship players, only one has logged less than 10 minutes in a game when he was available (Ashton Pankey’s one-minute cameo against Notre Dame on Dec. 4).
It’s a trend that might not hold up much longer.
“Minutes went down for a lot of guys tonight, so they came out for mistakes, which is the way you’re supposed to coach,” Turgeon said. “You let guys play through mistakes. You don’t take them out for every mistake, but there’s certain things you can’t tolerate. I sat down with guys in the last week and said ‘This is what I can’t tolerate from you, so if you’re doing that I’m going to take you out.’ “
And that, more than words of encouragement or displeasure, is certain to get any player’s attention.
“Everybody doesn’t want to mess up,” Stoglin said. “Everybody wants to go hard, and nobody wants to get subbed out.”
A third of the way into the season, it’s finally a viable threat that Turgeon may do just that.