COLLEGE PARK, Md - It's been tough for the slumping Terps to elicit a rise out of the sparse crowds at the Comcast Center this season. All Seth Allen had to do on Sunday to get one was stand up.
Prompted by another slow start, Mark Turgeon called Allen's name four minutes into Sunday night's contest against Tulsa, who had sprinted out to an early 11-4 lead compliments of a series of three pointers. Allen stood up and jogged to the scorer's table, provoking a cheer from the 10,251 in attendance.
Turgeon preached caution with Allen's healing foot leading up to the game, but the sophomore showed no ill-effects from the injury, scoring nine first half points to spark a 15-2 Maryland run that put them back in a game they would eventually win, 85-74. The win was the 300th of Turgeon's career, 50 of which have now come at Maryland.
"It felt good," Allen said. "I was nervous going in but I wasn't scared of not playing well. I didn't think I was going to play as well as I did, but I can still do better."
Allen made three of Maryland's 10 threes, scoring 15 points in total and injecting life and energy into a team that desperately needs it anytime he was on the court. He played 21 minutes in all, and the Terps (8-5) outscored the Hurricane by 14 when he was on the floor.
"Seth Allen did what Seth Allen does," Turgeon said. "He got us going, got to the rim, makes everyone better. More importantly, it gives us depth."
Turgeon was confident that Allen would fare well in his return and reiterated the high level of play the sophomore had exhibited before he went down in early November. As the Tulsa lead inflated to 15 in the first half, Turgeon and the Terps knew they could turn to Allen to bring them back.
"He gave everybody, including me, confidence going into this game," Turgeon said. "We got down 15 and we all felt like we could come back and get it done."
With 18 points, Dez Wells led Maryland in scoring and crossed the 1,000-point mark for his career. Along with Allen, Wells was one of five Terrapins to score in double digits. Following their slow start, the Terps still managed to shoot 43.3 percent from the field largely because they got to the free throw line 35 times, converting 23, and only turned it over 10 times.
Asked about limiting turnovers, Allen said, "It's great because the ball is going to be in my hands pretty much 85 or 90 percent of the time, so I can control the pace. You can tell once you're in the game, everyone's eyes get real big. Once we're in sets, we're pretty much unstoppable."
"[Allen] can help," Wells added. "We made good passes, took care of the ball, man. That is a big thing for us, you know, because you guys talk about it so much it gets back to us."
The addition of Allen seemed to make everyone better. The addition of another ball handler will do nothing but help the mistake-prone Terps, even if Allen is more of a scorer than he is a pure point guard.
The game was tied at 35 at the halfway point, but the Terps nudged ahead early in the second half courtesy of Jake Layman, who had 11 second half points after going 0-for-6 in the first. The lead inflated to double digits after a Danny Manning sideline outburst earned him consecutive technical fouls and an early exit.
Layman drained all four free throws and the Terps scored seven straight from the charity stripe to push the lead to 11. Tulsa would only get as close as five from there on in.
With Turgeon searching for defense and consistency down low, Damonte Dodd started for the first time in his young career. The freshman played 15 minutes on the night, which was the most burn he's gotten all year. While the score sheet showed that he tallied only two points, two boards and no blocks, the lengthy Dodd definitely altered his fair share of shots on Sunday night.
"He is a shot blocker," Turgeon said. "That is kind of why I did it: to give him some experience. He actually played a little bit better that I thought he was going to play."
After Boston University's Maurice Watson Jr. and D.J. Irving, both measuring below six foot, routinely finished at the rim en route to 38 combined points against Maryland, Turgeon conceded that the Terps lack of rim protection had become an issue.
Enter Dodd and Jonathan Graham, who after 20 minutes Sunday, has now played at least 15 in five straight games. Graham blocked three shots as the Hurricane shot 38.8 percent and scored only 20 points in the paint. Graham has essentially replaced Shaquille Cleare, who played only five minutes, in Turgeon's rotation.
"I said I got to do something," Turgeon said. "I tried them all in the BU game. The good thing is I have four guys I really have confidence in. I just have to play the guys that are playing the best on game night."
Turgeon walked into the locker room after the game and wrote "1-0" on the board before addressing his players, implying that Sunday's win can be the first step towards salvaging what has has thus far been a disappointing season.
"We've bought into it," Wells said. "That's been the message since before we left; new season when we get back. Wipe your head clean of all your mistakes and all the things you've done wrong."
If things indeed start to break the right way for the Terps, one certainty became pretty clear on Sunday night. It will be a lot easier with Seth Allen in the fold.