Logan Aronhalt was in his 600-level kinesiology class Tuesday and missed practice, and Coach Mark Turgeon's announcement that the Maryland starting lineup was changing.
Shooting-sub-supreme Aronhalt didn't start Wednesday night against Maryland Eastern Shore but he came off the bench with 13 minutes to play in the first half with the first round of Terrapin substitutes, including Charles Mitchell, Alex Len, Nick Faust and Pe'Shon Howard.
Of course, Len, Faust and Howard normally start for Maryland and have been instrumental in the Terrapins' now seven-game winning streak. Turgeon let some new faces get first run against winless UMES but nobody had a bigger impact than Aronhalt in the 100-68 victory.
The Albany transfer, a graduate student at Maryland, pumped in a team-high 17 points, hitting 5-of-7 three-point attempts and helping the Terrapins cruise by their overmatched opponents before 9,813 at Comcast Center in the first game of an eight-game homestand.
And Aronhalt's threes not only help on the scoreboard but they seem to lift his teammates every time he lets loose. "Logan is probably the best shooter in the country if you leave him open," said Mitchell, who had his first double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
"Especially if a team plays 2-3 or a zone against us and we put Logan in the game, we know he's going to shoot them out of it. Every time he lets it go, we know it's going in."
Aronhalt wasn't the only one having that kind of night As a team, Maryland shot a season-high 61.3 percent (38-of-62) and hit a season-best 10 three-pointers (in 20 attempts). Twelve of the 14 players who played scored and five Terps were in double-figures.
"I was pleased with the way that we shared the ball," said Turgeon. "I thought that we were unselfish. Obviously we didn't guard or rebound the way we're capable of, but I'll give the guys a pass because we've been guarding our tails off in practice and we've really been guarding in games."
It was offensively, though, where the Terps really shined. Turgeon's Terps went over 100 points for the first time in his career here, and they had a whopping 52 points in the paint (to 18 for UMES), and a 22-4 edge in fastbreak points.
Maryland had 27 assists on 38 field goals, the third time over 20 assists in a game this season, including 28 against LIU Brooklyn. That game and this one represented "almost as many assists as we had all of last season," quipped Turgeon.
As for the lineup, freshmen Seth Allen, Jake Layman and Shaquille Cleare starting for the first time alongside James Padgett and Dez Wells, well there was no controversy.
"No one was in trouble," said Turgeon. "I did it because you never know what lies ahead. I want everyone to know what it feels like to start in a game. I have never done that before but I have never had a team like this - that likes each other as much as they do and are as a deep as this team is. There are no bruised egos.
Turgeon said he would also start a different lineup on Saturday in the 2 p.m., tilt with South Carolina State, and then look to get back to "normal" when Monmouth comes to town next Wednesday.
Cleare had a career high 12 points, and Layman's 10 was his top performance so far. Allen had eight points and a career high eight assists. He played the most minutes of anyone (26) and had just two turnovers. Faust had 10 points and a career high seven points, even running some point late when Howard had some stomach issues that limited him to just nine minutes and two assists.
Padgett had eight points, including two free throws to open the game, and six rebounds. But then sophomore guard Tyree Jones made his presence felt with a three-pointer to put UMES (0-8) up 3-2 in the first minute. From there, the Terps rattled off the next nine points - all in the paint, including a three-point play by Wells in transition and a dunk by Layman. When Wells got his fastbreak hoop, it was 11-3 at 17:36.
Jones hit a three, and would score the Hawks' first 11 points on his way to 24 points on 9-for-17 shooting. Unfortunately for he and his teammates, the Terrapins hit eight of their first 10 shots. Layman had a three-pointer, and Padgett scored in transition to make it 16-6. After another Jones' trey, Cleare hit a hook and Padgett scored on the break from Allen to make it 20-9.
Turgeon made a wholesale substitution around the 13-minute mark, Len, Mitchell, Faust, Aronhalt and Howard in, but they came in a little sloppy and took a few minutes to find their way. Defense did the trick, leading to two transition baskets - a Faust lay-in from a Howard lob and then an Aronhalt three on a nice read and reversal by Howard. When Len got inside for an easy one, it was 30-13 at 8:23.
When Mitchell picked up his second foul, Turgeon inserted John Auslander at power forward. The 6-7 junior hit one of two free throws at 6:33 to make it 32-15.
Jones, on his way to 18 first-half points, kept the Hawks within shouting distance but Maryland shot 64.3 percent (18-of-28) and had a commanding 22-4 advantage in points in the paint in opening a 49-28 halftime lead. Faust hit a step-back three-pointer with two seconds left to give the Terps their biggest lead.
Nine different Terps scored in the first half and the two didn't were Howard, who didn't take a shot, and Mitchell who had eight rebounds in 10 minutes. The Hawks hit just 23 percent in the opening 20 minutes, and if you take away Jones' 7-of-12, the rest of the team was just 2-for-27, against a Maryland defense that came in 24th in the country allowing just .364 shooting. UMES finished 23-of-72 (31.9 percent).
The Terps, who were second in the nation in rebounding margin (plus-17.0 per game) didn't dominate there like they normally do, finishing with a 43-34 margin. Len, though he didn't start did his part with nine points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes. He hit all four of his field goal attempts.
Wells finished with seven points, five assist and three rebounds in 19 minutes, and had just one turnover. The Terps had just 15 turnovers, equaling their low in the last four games.
"It felt good to come out and set the tone," said Allen. "I felt like we played well to start. I wanted to run the team, get into our secondary break and find the open guys. We got to work on our zone offense and we really were able to execute."
Turgeon wasn't particularly pleased with the Terrapin defense in the first half so Faust opened the second half with a steal and furious one-hand dunk. But UMES scored on two of their first three possessions as the coach sat back in his seat disgustedly.
Two Aronhalt three-point bombs, one off great ball movement in the halfcourt, and the second in transition at 17:03, erased any ills, and put the Terps up 60-33.
The Hawks whittled the lead back down to 21 but Allen drained a three over the UMES 2-3 zone to make it 67-43 with 13:05 left. Wells added a stickback. After Troy Synder hit a three-pointer to make it 69-46, Mitchell scored the next three baskets, all lay-ups and the last two on great feeds from Faust. It was 75-46 with 10:51 remaining.
"Nick is trying so hard to do what I am asking," said Turgeon. "That's what I appreciate about Nick. Nick isn't caught up in winning, just doing what I'm telling him to do. He had seven assists and only one turnover, which is tremendous. He's really starting to get comfortable."
The Hawks haven't been nearly close to comfortable this year. All of their losses have all been by 10 or more points so far, and it doesn't get any easier as they travel to Cincinnati on Saturday and play at Connecticut on Monday. Maryland Eastern Shore was picked 12th in the 13-team MEAC preseason poll.
Turgeon cleared the bench with 2:15 to play, Connor Lipinski, Spencer Barks and Jacob Susskind joining Aronhalt and Auslander on the floor. Barks hit two free throws and Lipinski, four, including the two that made this Turgeon's first 100-point Terrapin game.
Susskind even got off a shot and he and Howard were the only Terps that didn't score. And there were smiles all around on the Maryland bench the second half as the scout team got a chance to show their wares.
"In the huddle before they came in I could hardly get a word in they were telling them so much," said Turgeon of the other players encouraging the last subs. "We put a lot into our scouts. We didn't put anything into this scout and it showed on defense. Those guys, along with (ineligible transfer) Evan Smotrycz and Varun (Ram), they have a lot on their plates. They have to learn all of our plays and the opponents plays, and I am on them if they mess something up."
And there was no ill will about the starting lineup changes either.
"It doesn't matter because our team is all there for each other," said Mitchell. "We love each other. We're all one family. It doesn't matter who starts, we always give maximum effort when we're on the floor."
Cleare went even further. "Our team chemistry is built the way it is because we live so close to one another, I promise you that. A lot of us been hanging around for a long time. We sleep in each other's rooms, on each other's couch. We're all over the place. We love each other."
Turgeon didn't couch questions on who might start Saturday but he's looking to build confidence in that already solid bench and continue to emphasize the team's chemistry. He said he drove home Sunday thinking about how he had to find more time for Cleare who has worked so hard and done everything asked of him in practice so far. Layman fell into that category, too, and he has responded well to extra defensive work in practice.
As for this lopsided game, what can the Terps take away, Coach? "Confidence, togetherness, smiling faces. It's fun to see. I'm on these guys all the time and it's good to see them cheering for their teammates and all that."
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