They marched to the scorer’s table Monday night, often four at a time. It was never a full line change, but it was enough to prove a point.
Mark Turgeon’s second season at Maryland is different in many ways. It is, increasingly, his roster. The Terrapins clearly are more talented, evidently capable of playing deeper into March than last year’s edition.
What remains striking, though, are the options at Turgeon’s disposal and his eagerness to use them. Ten Terps played in the first six minutes of the 67-45 defeat of Morehead State. Each went on to play 13 minutes.
Such a possibility was laughable last season, when Turgeon coaxed 17 victories out of an undermanned roster. It won’t be a limiting factor in the months to come.
“I know it’s a good feeling for coach,” guard Nick Faust said. “We have a lot of players this year, guys who can do a lot for the team. We definitely have depth this year. It kind of keeps us honest on the floor. We have to go hard every play.”
Turgeon can now place consequences if any player makes a few bad decisions or merely finds himself in a rut. It’s a convenience he did not enjoy a year ago, when his players knew it was unlikely they would be banished to the bench — and that it would be short-lived if they were.
The diametrically opposite issues surfaced Monday. Alex Len played a team-high 24 minutes, with Turgeon removing players who were logging quality time simply to give others a chance to play.
“The hardest thing for me tonight was trying to figure out how to get guys in the game,” Turgeon said. “Guys played well, and I had to take them out. Our guys all had good attitudes about it. James Padgett played 13 minutes, but he played 13 really good minutes. It allowed me to play Shaq [Cleare] more and Charles [Mitchell] more. Not that they probably deserved it over him, but it probably helps our team in the long run.”
Indeed, much of the next two months will be invested in developing players and tinkering with combinations. Maryland has a couple of intriguing tests in the next month (Nov. 27 at Northwestern, Dec. 2 against George Mason in the BB&T Classic), but faces a generally manageable schedule before conference play commences in January.
It leaves plenty of time for plenty of Terps to solidify their place in Turgeon’s lineup. But it’s also possible Maryland simply sticks with its deep rotation, wearing down opponents with size and athleticism.
Not every foe will grow weary like Morehead State (1-1), a feisty bunch that closed within 10 early in the second half before fading. Yet Maryland appears unlikely to endure the same fate against any deep teams this season.
“Our bench would start for any college team, they’re that good,” swingman Dez Wells said. “Coach Turgeon did a great job recruiting as well as the other coaches and that speaks volumes about how good of a coach he is and the belief we have in him.”
Clearly, Turgeon was not interested in repeating a season like last year again, and the Terps look a lot different.
It’s especially true when a second line rolls onto the floor ready and capable of making a difference.
“It’s a luxury,” Padgett said.