Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Seth Allen is back and better than before
Most of the discussion today following Maryland’s 85-74 victory over Tulsa with be centered around the return of Seth Allen, and rightly so. Allen was fundamental in orchestrating the Terrapins comeback from being down 15 in the first half, and very clearly injected something that the team was missing for a lot of the game while he wasn’t on the court. His energy is infectious, and while a lot of the novelty will wear off after a couple games, the team got a much needed spark the second Allen stepped onto the floor.
Perhaps Dez Wells, who notched his 1,000th point in the win, explained it best after the game:
“He does a lot for us. He opens up the floor and to lose him like we did, it was tough for us. We had to learn to play without him. But great teams adjust, you know, we were able to pull out seven wins without him. I wish we had at least ten, you know, but he helps. He got me going, as well as everybody else, and [brought] some energy we hadn’t played with in awhile.”
It certainly looked like Allen had a huge effect on Wells while he was in the game, allowing him to get open off the ball and play some zone offense in the middle of the court. At times, Wells was playing small forward for Maryland and even on the defensive end, it helped him neutralize some of Rashad Smith’s production. Wells finished with another ho-hum 18 points and 10 rebounds, but more importantly he shot the ball incredibly well, going 7-of-10 from the field.
But it wasn’t just a motivated Wells who felt some of the effects of Allen. It’s no coincidence that Nick Faust was able to come off the bench and play a very contained, very effective style of play. Faust scored 13 points on only five shot attempts, and while some of those came in the last few seconds, he looked more comfortable on the court than I’d ever seen him.
Adding another wrinkle to your team 13 games into the season just doesn’t happen for the vast majority of teams. Mostly, teams only moderately improve and “you are who you are” until the offseason comes and there can be improvement through training. There’s refinement of skills, but not necessarily an entirely new dynamic. Maryland didn’t have a ton of scoring at the point guard position with Roddy Peters, and Allen suddenly injects that.
Another scorer who can get to the line (he was 4-of-6 from there today) and drain it from deep? That doesn’t just randomly appear midseason for most teams. You think Pe’Shon got much better last year as the season went on? No, because his offseason prior was spent recovering. Allen did get a full offseason to improve, and one injury may negate some of that progress, but not all.
I was expecting Allen to be a good addition, but I wasn’t expecting him to thrive in the manner that he did. For Turgeon, it wasn’t nearly the surprise because Allen had been doing it all offseason. “I knew he was going to play well,” Turgeon said after the game. “He had his first shot went all the way in. Had a couple others go in and out. He’s a special athlete. He was playing at such a high level [before the injury] you guys couldn’t even see him.”
“I think it gave everybody, including me, confidence.”
Perhaps we’re starting to get a glimpse of that now, and it’s hard not to be encouraged by the early results.
Damonte Dodd and Jonathan Graham went overlooked
I’m having a hard time deciding which player(s) made more of an impact on the floor: getting quality minutes out of Damonte Dodd and Jonathan Graham or Seth Allen returning. Dodd only played fifteen minutes, grabbed two boards and blocked one shot in his first home start, but the energy and length he provides is great. Dodd gets lost sometimes on the defensive end, but he knows how to keep players out of the paint and to frustrate those that enter it. Keeping him on the court without fouls popping up from mental errors (one of his was an illegal screen for Seth Allen) was a major reason why Maryland only gave up 20 points in the paint against Tulsa.
That’s not to sell Jonathan Graham short though. Graham may have been an afterthought transfer to start the year, but his Blitzkreig-esque energy off the bench and his hustle ensure that he’ll play a lot for this team. In Graham’s 20 minutes of play, he blocked three shots, altered plenty, and pulled in seven rebounds, and his presence was felt everywhere on the defensive side. Folks forget that Graham may have seemed like a scrub for Penn State stat wise, but they definitely started him last year and got solid performances.
His problem will always be getting into foul trouble because of that motor, and whether or not he can do enough to stop opposing big men due to his height limitations. For me, it doesn’t matter how big you are if your hustle is where it needs to be. Graham isn’t going to back down against anyone, and he will always provide the Terps with one thing they sometimes need: effort.
I wouldn’t expect Maryland to start really limiting Charles Mitchell’s minutes because these two got more today, though. Turgeon stated after the game that it was foul trouble which kept Mitchell’s minutes low, not performance. He’s still key for this team to improve, because Mitchell is the team’s only post scorer. Graham and Dodd provide essentially nothing on the offensive end, and Maryland still needs those points to come from somewhere when Layman has another poor shooting performance.
Mostly, this will allow the minute distribution to become a little more even, and give guys like Smotrycz and Mitchell a rest while actually improving defensively. In that, you have to be pleased. These guys all get tired, and adding more firepower while getting better performance out of the guys you already have is huge, Dez Wells said as much:
“We had five days off and Coach Turgeon didn’t want us to do anything. He just wanted us to relax, stretch, take as much time off. ACC play, that’s when it really starts. We were a little winded tonight but we fought through it, fought the fatigue, and we got it done.”