COLLEGE PARK -- The entire reason why Mark Turgeon has shifted Diamond Stone to his new role as sixth man has been to help him to avoid foul trouble. For the first time in a long time, fouls became an issue in Maryland’s 62-56 victory over Northwestern on Tuesday night.
In a grind-it-out game, Stone registered two fouls by the 9:47 mark of the first half. Already short-handed with center Michal Cekovsky ruled out with an illness, Stone played only 15 minutes in a 45-minute overtime game.
But he produced, scoring 11 points and hitting all five of his free throws. He was inserted back into the game late in overtime and had a game-changing finish off a pass from Melo Trimble, plus a foul, that gave Maryland control by putting them up three.
“I thought in overtime he was terrific,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “For never really being a part of the game and having no flow, to come in there and catch the ball the way he catches it and lay it in and rebounding the ball and make those free throws is pretty special for a guy that big.”
Turgeon said there was still a level of frustration for Stone, but it will continue to be a point of emphasis.
Now, there is a question to be raised as to whether he should have played more minutes down the stretch in regulation because he did not pick up his fourth foul until there was under a minute left in overtime. At that point, what is there to lose?
But a bigger takeaway is this -- Stone is a five-star freshman who can be taken off the bench cold and has enough poise and confidence to affect a game the moment he steps on the floor in crunch time.
He has done it before against Penn State and Michigan in the second half, but tonight was different. It was a much more precise stretch of time during which Maryland needed a hero and they found him in Stone.
That speaks to his continued maturation.
“He’s growing up. He’s learning,” Maryland forward Robert Carter, Jr., who pulled down 14 rebounds of his own in the win, said. “Every game you’re not going to have just one foul … and you’ve got to learn how to fight through it, get through it, stay mentally into the game because we needed him.”
“He wasn’t even sweating,” Turgeon added. “To do that, he was very calm. There’s a reason he’s such a good player.”