By Chris Knoche
It would be impossible to blame Maryland coach Mark Turgeon for being excited about what he’s seeing right now.
His team just finished off their eleventh consecutive win by drilling Delaware State 79-50 before 12,389 at Comcast Center. He had just witnessed season best performances from two key reserves as well as a solid showing from start to finish by the rest of his club.
That the Terps had just spanked Delaware State was not surprising. The Hornets entered the game at 5-7 and a rout was predictable. The way it unfolded was both methodical and precise and represented the best outing–from start to finish–of the Terps this season.
Midway through the first half Delaware had slowed the game to a crawl with a laudable offensive patience and owned a 16-15 lead after a pair of made free throws. Turgeon and his troops were clearly frustrated with the pace and flow of the game.
Enter Charles Mitchell.
The 6’8” freshman has been a man-child for much of the season, to be certain, but he played this game like the newest present under the Terp Nation Christmas tree.
With his team trailing by one at that point, Mitchell scored the first six points of a 17-0 Maryland run that didn’t just put the Terps in command, it effectively ended the contest. The Terps had started the game 3-8 from the field and missed some easy shots in the paint. When you don’t score it completely takes any pressure defense- the easiest way to speed up the tempo of the game- out of the equation. From the time Mitchell caught fire to the end of the first half, the Terps shot 16-18 from the field and led 40-22 at intermission.
While Mitchell had a big hand in changing the course of the game in that first half he had plenty of help. Fellow freshmen Seth Allen and Jake Layman each had six points and shot a combined 5-6 from the field. Allen has proven himself to be up to the task of basketball at this level. Layman has offered tantalizing size and talent but not the production. In terms of style and substance, this was his best half of the season.
The second half would end up being a mirror image of the first with Delaware State starting quickly before succumbing to Maryland’s size and depth. Turgeon continued to coach like it was hockey and kept sending wave after wave of fresh Terps over the boards for regular line changes.
Mitchell ended the game with gargantuan numbers–season high 19 points and 14 rebounds. Allen and sophomore Dez Wells each chipped in ten points but the team numbers dwarfed the individual ones.
Maryland continued a new-found offensive efficiency and shot 33-58 (57%). Their selflessness was on display once again as they totaled 19 assists versus just 10 turnovers. They harassed the Hornets into horrid shooting (18-56, 32%) and forced 19 turnovers.
Perhaps the only thing that Turgeon could find to complain about after the game came in the most unlikely statistical category. The Terps have been in the top five nationally in rebounding all year long and Delaware State didn’t have a starter over 6’7” yet the battle on the backboards was pretty much even all day long. Were it not for Mitchell’s efforts the Terps may have actually found themselves out-rebounded for the first time this season. The final Maryland advantage of 36-30 felt deceptive given the fact that the Hornets tallied 16 rebounds on their offensive end.
Maryland has one more opportunity for a “tune-up” prior to the beginning of ACC play one week from today. They will host IUPUI at home on New Year’s Day as they ramp up to their league home opener against Virginia Tech.