Ter­rap­ins trade dis­ap­point­ment for swag­ger in con­vinc­ing vic­tory

MARY­LAND 86, WAKE FOR­EST 60

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY ALEX PRE­WITT

Smiles re­turned to Com­cast Cen­ter on Satur­day, the swag­ger back in Mary­land’s step af­ter Wed­nes­day’s crush­ing two-point loss at Florida State. From the pregame in­tro­duc­tions, when the starters danced and their team­mates fol­lowed suit, the Ter­rap­ins looked like a re­ju­ve­nated bunch, ready to wipe the slate clean af­ter a roller-coaster Jan­uary.

It was the type of ef­fort they needed. Badly.

Satur­day against Wake For­est marked the out­set of a de­cid­edly eas­ier stretch of winnable games. Post­sea­son im­pli­ca­tions will have to wait un­til an­other day. For now, the Terps en­joyed their most pro­duc­tive of­fen­sive ef­fort since hang­ing 94 points on Vir­ginia Tech in their ACC opener nearly one month ago and rolled to an 86-60 win.

Rarely has Mary­land seemed so dom­i­nant since con­fer­ence play be­gan.

In­stead, it has suf­fered all man­ner of heart­break and dis­ap­point­ments, cul­mi­nat­ing in Michael Snaer’s dag­ger with 1.1 sec­onds left in Tal­la­has­see, Fla., which sent the Terps on a tear­ful, bumpy plane ride home. There have been blowouts (by Duke), sec­ond-half col­lapses (against Florida State, twice) and first-half dis­ap­point­ments (at North Carolina).

But the emo­tions were re­versed and the bench emp­tied against hap­less Wake For­est, a feel-good ACC win fi­nally in the bag.

“It’s pretty big,” Coach Mark Tur­geon said. “We had guys cry­ing af­ter the last game. Shows you they care. It’s good for ev­ery­body. Coaches in­cluded. . . . Last two games, they’re start­ing to fig­ure it out. Now whether we’ll get a road win next Thurs­day [at Vir­ginia Tech], I don’t know. But you can see it coming. You can see us coming. It’s good to see.”

The Ter­rap­ins’ once-dor­mant of­fense

hummed. Mary­land fed passes in­side against a Wake For­est de­fense mostly un­in­ter­ested in fronting. Mary­land’s three post play­ers shot 16 of 19 from the field in rack­ing up 44 points in the paint, its most since Dec. 29 against Delaware State.

All but one reg­u­lar shot at least 50 per­cent from the field. The hold­out? Pe’Shon Howard, who was 0 for 1.

It be­came that type of af­ter­noon for the Terps. They didn’t cool off and shot 67.3 per­cent from the field, the fifth-best mark in pro­gram his­tory and best since 1986. They also shot a sea­son-high 68.8 on three-point­ers.

Six play­ers fin­ished in dou­ble fig­ures for the first time since 2011, though none scored more than Lo­gan Aron­halt’s team-high 13.

“We def­i­nitely needed to play like this,” Aron­halt said. “Coach told us af­ter the game, he feels this style of play, he feels it coming on. Tonight we really showed it. Lock­ing down on de­fense, play­ing ag­gres­sive and smooth on of­fense. That’s been our big­gest set­back this far in the sea­son, our of­fen­sive strug­gles. Tonight we made shots. Guys have really been in the gym work­ing. Af­ter ev­ery prac­tice we get some ex­tra shoot­ing in. All we did the other day was go out and shoot the ball. When you make shots, it really helps.”

For all of Mary­land’s head­hang­ing slumps and hand-wring­ing in­con­sis­ten­cies, ev­ery player seemed to shake off his pre­vi­ous strug­gles. Alex Len, who was called out by Tur­geon for his sub-par per­for­mance at Florida State, ex­ploited some matchup prob­lems to fin­ish with 12 points on 6-of-7 shoot­ing and nine re­bounds. Len took an el­bow early from Wake For­est fresh­man Devin Thomas, younger brother of Mary­land women’s bas­ket­ball star Alyssa Thomas. Jaw­ing with the for­ward, Tur­geon said, got Len go­ing.

Fresh­man guard Seth Allen made 3 of 4 three-point­ers, more than he had in the past six games com­bined. Se­nior for­ward James Pad­gett, who played an ef­fec­tive 31 min­utes against the Semi­noles, made all six field goal at­tempts in his re­turn to the start­ing lineup, the 11th fielded by Tur­geon this sea­son and eighth through nine ACC games. Dez Wells (11 points, five re­bounds, four as­sists) and Jake Lay­man (4 for 6 on three-point­ers) also fin­ished in dou­ble fig­ures for the Terps, who never let the lead slip to sin­gle dig­its af­ter an ac­ro­batic Wells layup gave them a 30-19 lead.

“It was great to see our of­fense really flow like that tonight,” Lay­man said. “We knew we had to come out and win to­day, and we did.”

JONATHAN NEW­TON/THE WASHINGTON POST

There are smiles all around as Mary­land’s Charles Mitchell, right, cel­e­brates with Jake Lay­man (10).

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