NEW YORK, N.Y. -- This game meant a little bit more to Maryland freshman center Diamond Stone, facing Connecticut on national television at Madison Square Garden.
“Diamond is one of those guys. He’s like Melo and guys -- brighter the lights, better they play,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Diamond did that tonight.”
Facing one of the teams that heavily recruited him during his time in high school, he was one rebound shy of a double-double, tallying 16 points and nine rebounds in Maryland’s 76-66 victory on Tuesday night.
Once again, Turgeon shifted him to the bench to begin the game, starting instead defensive-minded junior Damonte Dodd. It worked. Maryland got out to a 22-8 lead and Stone had five points and four rebounds by the 17:01 mark of the first half.
Turgeon accomplished two things by making the move. The starting defense got better -- proven by the way Connecticut’s offense struggled early -- and bringing an offensive talent like Stone off the bench unleashes a scoring barrage that second-unit post players have trouble with.
“He was good. He’s coming,” Turgeon said. “I keep saying, he gets better in practice every day, he gets more coachable, and he’s listening. He’s got a lot of good bigs around him, a lot of veterans. He’s listening to them and getting better.”
The next step for Stone continues to be his defense.
He was solid in the first half, some of his deficiencies hidden by the fact he could guard UConn’s Amida Brimah -- a player much more valuable for his defense than for his offense. In the second half he hit some bumps in the road, but it is clear that progress is still being made.
But with the threat he poses on the offensive end, Turgeon should be fine with letting him iron out those defensive issues in game minutes.