The Five: What We Learned After N.C. State

The Five: What We Learned After N.C. State

Welcome to our next edition of "The Five," where we take a look at five trends from Maryland's 65-56 loss to N.C. State in Raleigh, N.C., Jan. 20.

Welcome to our next edition of "The Five," where we take a look at five trends from Maryland's 65-56 loss to N.C. State in Raleigh, N.C., Jan. 20.

Wanted: Pure Point

Oh, to have a true point guard, a drive-and-dish guy, a real distributor…

With Jake Layman (five points, 2-of-8 from the field) stone cold again, Dez Wells pressing too much in his Raleigh homecoming and the rest of the Terps shooters misfiring again, what Maryland could do with a natural "1." Someone to dribble penetrate, draw and dish. Someone to settle the club when it hits rough spots. Someone to balance the floor.

Yes, sophomore point guard Seth Allen (eight points, five assists) is getting back into better condition and strength coming off his foot injury and is the best option. But he's still, no matter how you cut it and as last night proved, a "shoot-first" combo guard. It took until the 2:25 mark in the first half before he drove the lane, got separation, and dished to a teammate, which was Damonte Dodd for an easy and emphatic flush.

Where was that the rest of the game? Although Allen had five dimes, the team as a whole had just nine in a dreadful offensive performance -- despite some hard work on the glass, which gave them ample second-chance opportunities.

Allen spun out of control, as did some of his teammates (see Wells, see especially Roddy Peters), not honoring the maxim of "time and score." He chucked up ill-advised jumpers and treys way too early in the shot clock when Maryland should have been trying to salt away a win. Maryland's offense was again feast or famine as the shots didn't fall and the Terps got away from trying to run inside-out offense and take time off the clock. It was chuck-it-up offense from the perimeter before even trying much probing of the defense.

Someone has to be a playmaker, and Allen is the most likely candidate, so he has to think "pass-first" if the Terps are going to run successful sets. The players stand around staring, the offense breaks down early amid the flurry of jumpers, and all this from a poor-shooting team to boot.

But the Terps Still Can't Function Without Allen

At the 18:28 mark of the second half Maryland had a nine-point lead and looked to be in complete control. But Seth Allen, who had picked up two fouls in the first half and struggled with his shot, turned the ball over and then compounded the issue by fouling N.C. State point guard Cat Barber (13 points, four assists), prompting Terps coach Mark Turgeon to pull his floor leader from the game.

Over the next four-plus minutes, with junior wing Dez Wells (10 points on 2-of-10 shooting) running the point and Allen on the bench, N.C. State mounted a 14-5 run to tie the game at 36. The Terps did eventually retake the lead, but the Wolfpack had the momentum and eventually grabbed the advantage for good when Raiston Turner canned a 3-pointer at the 8:57 mark.

With Allen out, the Terps, which showed little half-court creativity anyway, looked lost in their sets. The offense lacked flow without a true point, and the ball-handling and court awareness were poor. The Terps ended up turning the ball over on three straight possessions, after which N.C. State scored three straight transition buckets, giving the Pack a confidence they carried the rest of the way.

Maryland's Defense Can't Keep Up in Transition

Before the game, Terps coach Mark Turgeon stressed that if his team rebounded well and played good defense it would have a good chance to emerge with a victory in Raleigh, N.C. And for the first 20 minutes Jan. 20, Maryland heeded those words, holding the Wolfpack to 22 percent shooting while doubling their rebounding output as UMD took a 29-20 halftime lead.

The key for the Terps was sophomore big man Charles Mitchell (eight points, 18 rebounds), and long forwards Jonathan Graham (four points, four rebounds) and Damonte Dodd (six points, four rebounds), combined for seven of the team's 10 first-half offensive rebounds and 14 points. By owning the offensive glass and converting inside (Maryland had 10 second-chance points in the first half), it kept N.C. State's potent transition attack at bay. The Wolfpack struggled to convert in the half-court with its top weapon, forward T.J. Warren, out with an injury.

But in the second half, despite recording 12 offensive boards, Maryland had just six second-chance points and turned the ball over seven times, allowing State the opportunity to run. Junior Raiston Turner (career high 23 points, three second-half 3-pointers) routinely made them pay, as UMD failed to pick him up in transition. Meanwhile, UMD couldn't cut off Cat Barber, who had nine second-half points and routinely sliced through the Terps' defense.

Mitchell is the Man

Despite his sometime flightiness, bricks from the free throw line and head-scratching plays at times, Charles Mitchell is proving more and more the one reliable workhorse on this team.

Last night he kept the Terps in the game with his prowess on the offense glass (nine offensive boards) on a night he hauled in a total of 18 rebounds, several on put-backs that kept the Terps sputtering offense alive. Mitchell finished with eight points, six of them of the second-chance variety.

It's not always pretty with Mitchell, who needs to play more within himself and the system and sometimes channel his energy and demonstrativeness in more appropriate ways, but he was in there battling N.C. State's 7-footers (Jordan Vandenberg, two points) and 325-pounders (Beejay Anya, two points), and more than holding his own.

His game doesn't have a ton of lift, and he still needs to lose weight (not to mention work on his free-throw shooting where he was 0-for-4 Jan. 20), but you take his energy and enthusiasm any day. He showed better ability to pass out of the blocks as well, and not just put his head down and power to the rim.

Dodd and Graham Need to Play

During the first three minutes of the game, sophomore starting big man Shaq Cleare proceeded to miss two layups and fumble a ball out of bounds. Turgeon responded by yanking Cleare and inserting Mitchell, along with Graham and later Dodd. Cleare, who has struggled most of the season save for a recent resurgence, ended up playing just six minutes all night and contributed two points and one rebound, while the backups proved more effective.

Dodd, who's the longest player Maryland has, ended up playing 14 minutes and scoring six points, grabbing four rebounds and adding a block. During the first half he had four second-chance points after corralling two offense boards, and one thunderous dunk that seemed to give the Terps energy. Not to mention he altered numerous N.C. State shots in the paint.

Graham, meanwhile, had four second-chance points, two offensive rebounds and two defensive rebounds while once again showing plenty of toughness down low. Yes, he turned the ball over and committed a silly foul, but at least this guy has some intestinal fortitude and won't back down defensively.

Neither may be ready to play long stretches, but both need to see significant action. Even if their shots aren't falling or they make a bonehead error or two, their length and toughness is needed on a Terps' squad that's proven soft way too often.

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