COLLEGE PARK -- Mark Turgeon sat at the podium after his team’s 75-71 victory over Georgetown on Tuesday night in College Park and promised it would be the only time this season that he would say this.
“We missed Dion tonight.”
With sophomore guard Dion Wiley sidelined for the season after undergoing knee surgery, Maryland’s backcourt rotation went from what appeared to be deep to a situation that forced senior Rasheed Sulaimon and sophomore Melo Trimble to play 37 and 34 minutes vs. the Hoyas, respectively.
That is the kind of minutes tally that will help you win a must-have rivalry game, but one that Turgeon knows is not sustainable for an entire season.
“I just have to have guts enough to play my bench on the perimeter,” Turgeon said. “If I do that, we’ll be fine.”
With Georgetown out of the way and four games in the next nine days, this is the time to figure it out. Senior Varun Ram is a situational defensive player, so most of this falls on the shoulders of junior college point guard transfer Jaylen Brantley.
Brantley came to Maryland with a reputation as a strong shooter and a player who could be an agitator on the defensive end of the floor. He played 16 minutes in the team’s opener against Mount St. Mary’s, but just one in the win over Georgetown.
“I just got to get him in there more. He’s got to get more comfortable and it’s a lot,” Turgeon said. “It’s a big jump from junior college ball to Georgetown, on ESPN, in front of that environment.”
The biggest adjustment for Brantley will be how exactly he fits. In high school, he says, he was a featured player. In junior college, he played 30 minutes per night and ran the team. Now, he has to figure out how to boil his game down and pack it into, say, 15 minutes per game.
“The adjustment with that is just playing harder in the time that you’re in,” Brantley said. “Do positive things. Don’t do anything negative to get yourself out of the game and if you just be positive and play great at that time that you’re in, I’m pretty sure Coach will keep you in and see what happens in the rest of the game.”
An effective Brantley would mean a reduced workload for Trimble and Sulaimon, which will pay off down the stretch of the season. It would also allow Maryland to be more flexible with small-ball lineups like the one they were forced to use late against Georgetown.
Brantley should get more minutes beginning on Friday against Rider. Three more games after that await before the team’s big showdown Dec. 1 in Chapel Hill against No. 1 North Carolina.