Five thoughts on Maryland’s 91-74 win over the Blackbirds of LIU-Brooklyn.

What point guard problems?
Throughout the offseason, and into the last 2 games people had been questioning Pe’Shon Howard. Is he healthy? Does he have it anymore? Well, at least for one night against LIU, Howard made all the criticism moot. He controlled the flow of action like a seasoned maestro, showing off an intimate knowledge of the offense and some beautiful improvisational riffs on the break.

All in all, Pe’Shon set the table with 13 dishes to only one 1 turnover. I don’t want to get too carried away with it because LIU is definitively the worst defense Maryland will see all season. Pe’Shon had his choice of open cutters on nearly every possession. What last night showed was what Pe’Shon is capable of reaching, which was previously unknown. In a game where he could’ve gotten his own shot at will, Pe’Shon only took two (which is telling, he’ll never be a go to scorer). Instead, he opted to be an extremely productive and nearly faultless facilitator.

It will be interesting to see him against tougher ACC defenses. I imagine the play with him would be to sag off, forcing him to either shoot or fit the ball into noticeably tinier assist windows. But for now, Pe’Shon is coming off his most impressive game as a Terp, and one in which he finally looked like an ACC starting point guard.

 

Seth Allen might have solved the shooting problem and created another
5/6 isn’t going to happen every night, but it’s obvious that Allen has the best natural shooting touch on this team. The two big threes in the Kentucky game showed signs that he could shoot, and Friday night just confirmed that when Allen gets hot, he can knock down treys with the best of them.

The problem this creates is where (and when) is Seth Allen going to play? I always assumed it was going to be a point guard battle between he and Pe’Shon, but it looks like he could have more value to this team as a scorer than as a distributor. The minutes certainly won’t be coming from Dez Wells, whose stat line from last night looks like an all you can eat buffet order (including his one ridiculous block early in the 1st half). Obviously for short stints, Allen can play at the 1 and have Wells start the offense while he tries to get open, or feed the ball into the post and work from there. But really, his well-deserved minutes are going to come at the expense of…

 

Nick Faust, who is struggling right now
There’s still a lot of time for him to turn it around, and I’m firm in my belief that he has too much talent not to. But in three games, Faust has looked serviceable in one (Morehead) and ineffective in the other two. For a guy whose quickness can get him to the cup at will, Faust has really struggled to finish once he gets there. Whether it’s been missed layups or indecisiveness leading to a charge, Faust just hasn’t shown anywhere near the body control of Dez Wells when trying to finish in traffic.

I’m convinced Faust is just in an early season slump and still trying to find his offensive identity. His track record at the end of last year is too strong to say otherwise. But the longer this continues, the more difficult it will be to keep Allen off the court.

 

Shaquille Cleare’s 2nd straight good game
On the brighter side of things, Shaq Cleare had a second consecutive good game. I’m still completely amazed every time his shot goes in, but for the 2nd straight game he showed the ability to hit a 10-footer (whether from the foul line or the elbow). Obviously 8 points and 2 rebounds in 12 minutes isn’t exactly bursting on the scene, but with Padgett playing well and Len being the best player on the team, it appears Cleare will have few opportunities for a true breakout this season.

If Cleare can do what he’s done the past two games and provide a scoring presence to go along with his rebounding, it will give Maryland a huge boost off the bench. As great of a rebounder as Charles Mitchell is, he has no offensive skill set to speak of yet. Cleare’s is definitely a work in progress, but it’s there. His continued scoring on the inside will make Turgeon feel much more comfortable sitting Len and Padgett for longer stretches.

 

The biggest takeaway was the giveaways
The 2009-2010 Terps team (Vasquez, Hayes, Milbourne, Gregory, Neal) had two great characteristics that I believe are vital to winning tough games. One was that they were a phenomenal free throw shooting team, something you don’t really appreciate until you see it. Everyone on the team was a good free throw shooter, and they could salt away a game like few other teams I’ve ever seen. The other was that they didn’t give the ball away. They had all played with each other for four years, so it almost seemed like ESP permeated the offense and it was extremely rare to see a careless throwaway.

Those are definitely two areas that this team needs to shore up on. The Terps again struggled at the line (65% on 13/20 shooting) and with turnovers (35 turnovers in the last 2 games). Overall, 65% for a team this young isn’t too damning considering I don’t really see any brick layers on par with Boom Osby or Ekene Ibekwe. The turnovers worry me a lot more.

I can’t count how many times Maryland would be going punch for punch with a better team in the first half only to have a rash of turnovers put the game out of reach. Last night, those turnovers were what kept LIU Brooklyn in that game for so long. The big men in particular need to be more conscious of what’s going on around them when they have the ball.