With just under 11 minutes to play in the 2nd half, the Terps had yet to figure out how to slow down Coach Joe Scott’s Princeton Offense. Maryland was getting beat by backdoor cuts, dominated on the boards, and had no answer for junior forward Chris Udofia. But then MD Coach Mark Turgeon made a substitution and decided to do something he had never done before in all his years as a head coach. He subbed out James Padgett (one of four MD big men that proved to be ineffective against Denver’s smaller lineup) for Dez Wells, and decided to go with a five guard lineup for the first time in his coaching career. The move, proved to be the pivotal element that saved the Terps season. Trailing by 8 with their season on the line, Maryland fought fire with fire, and the smaller lineup verified Maryland’s superior talent to the co-WAC regular season champions. With Dez Wells leading the charge (as the center), Maryland closed out the 2nd half on a 25-7 run and defeated the Pioneers 62-52 to advance to the NIT Quarterfinals.
The 1st Half:
It was a frustrating start for the Terps, especially for the MD bigs. Alex Len, with a 7” height advantage over Chris Udofia, could not get anything going offensively. The smaller Udofia frustrated Len, as Len missed four of his first five shots while picking up two fouls. Charles Mitchell came in relief for Len, but proved to be less effective, closing out the 1st half 0-4. While the bigs continued to struggle, MD’s sizzling guards Dez Wells, Seth Allen and Nick Faust kept the Terps close. Wells scored 8 points in the first 6:20 in the game while Allen contributed 7 and Faust with 6. Unfortunately, Maryland had only made 9 FG’s in the half to go along with 8 turnovers. What made matters worse was that they simply could not contain Chris Udofia; Udofia was responsible for 16 of Denver’s first 19 points and finished with 19 of the Pioneers’ 30 1st half points. He was also responsible for shutting down MD’s bigs, as no Terp center/forward finished with more than 3 rebounds. Royce O’Neale scored 5 points for Denver while Brett Olson chipped in 4 points.
Score: Denver 30 – Maryland 27
The 2nd Half:
The first 10 minutes of the 2nd half was much of the same for the Terps. Denver had stretched its 3 point halftime lead to 8 behind MD’s 4-12 shooting, 6 turnovers and 5 team fouls. Frustrated with the performance of MD’s bigs who had no answer for Denver’s small frontline, Turgeon made the call to go with a five guard lineup, with Wells working the middle. The results were staggering; MD proceeded to go on a 12-2 run to take a 51-50 lead with a little over 4 minutes to go. With this lineup, it was evident that the Terps guards had the advantage in athleticism, as Denver could not stop MD from driving and penetrating the middle.
In return, Denver’s gasping players began to sputter on offense. After Turgeon’s switch to a five guard lineup, Denver closed out the 2nd half shooting 4-17 (24%), 1-3 from the charity stripe and 8 team fouls. But another important factor was the Terps defensive adjustment to neutralize Udofia. MD’s defense, with Dez Wells now guarding the Pioneers’ hot hand, held Udofia to only 5 points in the 2nd half. Conversely, the Terps were able to close the game out with points on 9 straight possessions.
MD was led, once again, by the dependable play of Dez Wells, who finished with 19 points on 7-10 shooting. Wells has averaged over 18 PPG and shooting over 56% from the field over the last 9 games. Seth Allen once again provided spark off the bench, adding 13 points on 6-10 shooting. Faust continued his steady play of late; despite only taking 5 attempts for the game, he still managed 12 points, 6 rebounds to go along with his 3 steals.
Denver was led by Chris Udofia with 24 points and 6 rebounds, while Brett Olson chipped in 10 points. Depth proved to be an issue for the Pioneers, as MD’s bench outscored Denver’s 22-3. Not known for turning the ball over (ranked 27th nationally in TO), the Terps forced 14 Denver turnovers to only 12 assists.
Score: Maryland 62 – Denver 52
The Turning Point:
With a little under 9 minutes to play and Denver leading 48-39, Seth Allen missed a jumper that resulted in a Royce O’Neale rebound. Jake Layman tried to reach in to strip the ball and was greeted with an elbow from O’Neale. The play resulted in a foul on Layman, and a flagrant foul on O’Neale. With Denver in the bonus, one free-throw was rewarded to O’Neale, and two free-throws were rewarded to the Terps. After O’Neale missed his free-throw, Nick Faust sunk both free-throw attempts to cut the MD deficit to 7. The switch in momentum was evident, as both MD and the fans were back in the game with new life.