Maryland Backcourt Shows Potential Without AllenPosted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 9th, 2013
When it was announced in late October that sophomore point guard Seth Allen would be out until early January with a broken bone in his foot, we all wondered how Maryland would respond. We got at least a partial answer in Friday night’s 78-77 loss to Connecticut in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Despite facing maybe the best backcourt in the country in the Huskies’ Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright, the Terrapin guards held their own. Looking at this game gives us an excellent picture of how Maryland plans to adjust to playing without Allen and raises questions concerning who should lose minutes when he comes back.
When Allen went down, head coach Mark Turgeon had three choices to start at point guard. Freshman Roddy Peters is easily the most natural at the position but Turgeon opted not to throw him into the fire right away. That left two natural wings, juniors Nick Faust and Dez Wells, to pick up the slack. In a telling move, Turgeon decided to give the ball to Wells. Perhaps part of the reason is that Wells is expected to be the team leader, and Turgeon thought having him as the starting point guard would settle the team down. But just as likely, Turgeon realized that no matter which wing he moved, decision-making would be at a premium. Even though he is regarded as a better ball-handler than Wells, Faust has had issues with shot selection and understanding time and score.
Friday’s game with Connecticut reinforced all of this. Dez Wells did reasonably well as the primary point guard with six assists but he also struggled at times with ball-handling, finishing with six turnovers. He also missed two forced shots that would have put Maryland ahead in the last 15 seconds of the game. Faust led the Terps in scoring with 17 points but it took him way too many shots to do it – finishing 5-of-18 from the field. Faust appears to do much better when he doesn’t try to make the play off the dribble. As evidence, all five of his made field goals in the game came off a teammate’s assist. Roddy Peters played 18 minutes off the bench and seemed to get more comfortable as the game went on. In fact, Peters and 5’9″ walk-on Varun Ram were on the court in place of Wells and Faust when Maryland began to rally from a 67-50 deficit with 12 minutes left in the game. Over the next two minutes, Ram assisted on a three-pointer made by Jake Layman, and Peters made a driving layup, had two steals, and a nice pass down the court to Layman that resulted in two made free throws. Suddenly the Terps were back in the game, only down nine with 10 minutes left. Although the comeback came up short, Maryland has to feel pretty good about how they will compete in the non-conference part of the schedule.
So what will happen when Seth Allen returns to the team, hopefully by the beginning of January? By then, Peters will be much more comfortable and should still deserve good minutes, sometimes alongside Allen, who’s really more of a combo guard than true point anyway. If healthy, Wells will certainly be on the floor, so the minutes may come from Faust. Layman is perhaps the best shooter on the team, hitting two threes in Friday’s second half rally, and is more athletic than people think, meaning he also helps out well on the boards and on defense. Of course we only have one game this year to go on, but Layman did play more minutes, 34 to 32, and looked like the more reliable player. Faust has the talent to be in the mix, but he needs to show better offensive efficiency or he won’t continue to play close to 30 minutes per game when the Maryland perimeter is back at full strength.