When Maryland had to dig itself out of a hole in the second half against Penn State earlier this season, the solution was clear. Dump the ball down to freshman Diamond Stone and let the big man go to work.
Stone would break the program’s freshman scoring record, which was set before he was even born, with 39 points in a 70-64 come-from-behind victory on Dec. 30.
The same situation presented itself on Thursday night against Minnesota. The Terrapins trailed by double digits at the half against a lesser opponent. Point guard Melo Trimble was struggling to find his groove, as was forward Robert Carter, Jr.
The difference? Stone was sitting on the sidelines in a suit, suspended for the game after an incident during Saturday’s game against Wisconsin during which he shoved the Badgers’ Vitto Brown to the ground.
No Stone, very little offensive flow, and the Gophers handed Maryland an upset loss, 68-63.
The offensive problems go beyond Stone’s absence on Thursday, but the fact that he was on the bench certainly did not help. It’s equally as important that his scoring was missing as it was that those who replaced him provided very little scoring -- but they were not expected to.
Maryland was able to go smaller at times when applying heavy defensive pressure, but without Stone, that meant 32 minutes for Damonte Dodd. The junior had six blocks -- including a few emphatic ones -- and grabbed nine rebounds, but he is not and cannot be expected to replace what Stone can do on the offensive end.
In that Penn State game, Maryland simply fed Stone the ball and had him go to work. The Nittany Lions had no answer.
Against Minnesota, even as Maryland continually got stops and tried to climb back into it, they struggled to get their offense going as a response. Imagine that level of defense, combined consistently with a basic Stone back-down and bucket.
That would have taken the scoring burden off of Melo Trimble, who forced a handful of long two-point jumpers on a 3-of-11 night, and shifted some post touches from Carter, who was 3-of-12, to Stone.
Diamond Stone missing Thursday’s game was not the reason they lost. And in the wake of the loss head coach Mark Turgeon should not take criticism for suspending the freshman.
Maryland was favored by double digits and should have won handily. But having Stone in the lineup could have meant another close win. Punishments are punishments.