Early in the first half against Lafayette, Dez Wells drove down the baseline and went up for a dramatic dunk attempt. Wells’ slam whiffed off the rim and flew out toward the 3-point line, where Nick Faust happened to be waiting. After grabbing the rebound, Faust drove down the lane and threw down an uncontested, thunderous dunk.
Charles Mitchell, pictured here against IUP, finished with 12 points and five rebounds Friday against Lafayette. (Photo by Bill Bride)
It was that kind of night for the Maryland basketball team. The Terps made mistakes, many of which were inconsequential, and put forth a largely unremarkable performance, but they were able to pull away with an 83-74 win over Lafayette on Friday night in front of 10,882 inside Comcast Center.
Simply put, the Terps (3-1) were good enough – but far from spectacular – and beat a middling Patriot League team that was outmanned, overmatched and playing without arguably its best player, 6-foot-9 forward Dan Trist.
“Everyone expects us to be great right away, or maybe they don’t. I don’t read what people think,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “But this is a process for us.”
“We’re going to have up-and-down games,” Faust added. “So we’ve just got to keep getting better.”
Five players – Faust (13), Alex Len (16), Charles Mitchell (12), James Padgett (14) and Wells (11) – finished in double-digit scoring for the Terps, who outrebounded the Leopards, 44-28, and scored 20 second-chance points and 50 points in the paint.
“We’re sharing the ball and we have great balance,” Turgeon said of the team’s offense. “Guys can score in a variety of ways. We’ve just got balance. We’ve got great players who are willing to share the ball and do the right thing.”
Despite allowing Lafayette (1-4) to hang around early, the Terps never trailed in the game and managed to put a sizeable, 10-point advantage between themselves and the Leopards at halftime.
But after going on a 12-5 run to start the second half, Maryland could never fully pull away from Lafayette, which went on a 8-0 run midway through the second frame before pulling within the game’s final margin of nine points.
The Leopards hung around largely in part to their 3-point shooting (15-for-32) and a lackluster defensive performance from the Terps.
“The whole team is a little disappointed because we are a defensive team,” Mitchell said. “We want to be a defensive-minded team. When we don’t go out and give it our all on defense, it’s kid of saddening because that’s where we put our hard work in.”
Maryland also struggled shooting from beyond the arc (3-for-15) and spent much of the game trading two-point baskets for 3-pointers. The Terps’ perimeter shooting woes were answered with a strong inside game and 50 points in the paint.
“As a team, we can score in a lot of ways. It’s just however we can,” Wells said. “If we’re not shooting good, we’ve got to go to basket. You’ve got to strategize and observe the game and see what’s working for you. We’re confident if we’re not making shots.”
Despite all the Terps’ miscues, in the end, they didn’t matter. Maryland walked away with its third straight win since dropping its season opener against Kentucky. After that three-point loss in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the Terps have beaten their opponents by a combined 48 points.
“What people don’t understand is everyday there’s something you have to get better at, especially with the freshmen we have,” Wells said. “They don’t know the college game yet. We have a long way to go. The team you see in November isn’t the team you’ll see in February. It doesn’t matter how you start off. As long as you have a solid foundation, once you get into ACC play, it’s a whole new season.”