COLLEGE PARK, Md - Jake Layman attempted his first shot 13:27 into the game. The Terps turned the ball over 16 times and managed only 28 first half points. Only two Maryland players scored in double figures and neither were named Layman.
A few weeks ago, those statistics would have spelled doom for the Terps against a dangerous mid-major like North Carolina Central. Not on Tuesday afternoon.
Suddenly blessed with a variety of rotation options, Mark Turgeon used nearly all of them against the Eagles en route to a dominating 70-56 victory, the second straight win for the Terps after coming back from holiday break.
"Most complete game we've played," Turgeon said afterwards. "Really happy with how we played. We really defended obviously."
The Terps played inspired defense from start to finish, holding NCCU's Jeremy Ingram, who entered Tuesday as the third leading scorer in the nation, to 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting. Ingram didn't make a shot from behind the arc (0-for-6) and got to the free throw line only five times despite ranking eighth in the nation in attempts.
"We did a great job on Ingram," Turgeon said. "I thought Dez [Wells] and Nick [Faust] really committed to guarding that kid."
Nick Faust had his best game of the season for Maryland, shadowing Ingram for the entirety of his 25 minutes and tying his career high in scoring. The junior needed only 11 shots to collect 19 points on the afternoon, converting 3-of-6 treys, 6-of-6 free throws and leading the Terps in rebounding with nine boards.
"Today I would say I played good defense," Faust said. "It might have rubbed off on me playing well on offense. I'm not sure."
After starting the team's first eight games, Faust has been relegated to a bench role for the past six. While his minutes haven't really changed since the demotion, Faust appears to have figured out how to contribute in his current role. On Sunday against Tulsa he scored 13 points on five shots. Today it was 19 on 11, making it two straight efficient performances for a guy who had previously been a maddening model of inefficiency.
"I would say there was an adjustment," he said, adding that it's been tough keeping his mind right between warm-ups and his entrance into games. "Maybe this is something that will help me improve. I'm just embracing it and trying to do whatever I can."
Beyond Faust's 19, seven Terrapins contributed between five and 10 points, led by Dez Wells with 10. Ten Maryland players played at least eight minutes, allowing the Terps to lockdown the Eagles, who shot just 32.7 percent. Until Tuesday, N.C. Central had managed a healthy 47.3 shooting percentage from the field. It was their lowest scoring output of the year and easily the worst game of the season for Ingram, who was coming off a 37-point effort against Wichita State just before Christmas.
"It was the same defensive principles that we take on with any good scorer," Wells said. "With good scorers, you're not going to be able to stop them every single play. But as long as their shots are tough, if they use a lot of energy on defense and offense to get their shots off, then that's a win for us."
It wasn't a flawless performance by the Terps, however. They turned the ball over 16 times and shot only 37 percent in the first half. Seth Allen came back to earth, scoring six points in 20 minutes two days after returning with a bang against Tulsa. But for the second straight game, Allen gave Turgeon another viable body to insert into the lineup and the result has been two wins.
"Is it as simple as just one more player? I think it is," said Turgeon, who has been begging for more options for weeks now. "It gives us all confidence. It gives us depth. I can actually take guys out for making mistakes defensively and hold them accountable."
Allen was sore on Monday after the Tulsa game, in which he got kicked on his injured bone. But the sophomore point guard still played 20 minutes Tuesday afternoon despite being less effective and even limping at times. He shot 2-of-6 from the field, but his presence appears to have had a ripple effect across this roster.
"He adds another dynamic player defensively and offensively to our team," Wells said. "He can do things right now that Roddy [Wells] can't do."
"He's changed things. That is obvious," added Turgeon, who approximated his point guard's health at 80-to-85 percent and hopes to have him at full strength in three weeks. "Seth is definitely a much better point guard than he was last year, and much further along than Roddy is at leading the team."
Along with the addition of Allen, Turgeon continues to tinker with his foursome of big men. Charles Mitchell and Jonathan Graham were the third year coach's forwards of choice on Tuesday afternoon, with Graham receiving his first start and Mitchell racking up 22 minutes two days after playing only eight against Tulsa.
Mitchell scored only five points, but he grabbed seven boards and the Terps were plus-32 with him on the court, which has become all that matters for Turgeon with ACC play resuming this weekend against Georgia Tech. After bottoming out against Boston University, he couldn't have asked for a better two-game stretch.
"I like it a lot better today than I did 10 days ago. I'll say that," Turgeon said about his team. "We're not looking backwards. We're looking forwards. We have such a tough schedule, a good schedule ahead of us, so it's in our control."