COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Diamond Stone texted Mark Turgeon a couple of days ago to say he had “embraced” the role of coming off the bench.
Turgeon must have then messaged the Maryland team to feed the big freshman because Stone stormed off the bench to hit 8-of-10 shots and join Robert Carter in riding herd on Marshall Dec. 27 at Xfinity Center.
Carter and Stone combined for 35 points in what truly became an inside job, the No. 4 Terrapins (11-1) pounding the ball down low in an 87-67 victory, Maryland’s fifth in a row.
“It was a big emphasis, Coach Turgeon always likes to play inside-out,” said Stone, who had 16 points and seven rebounds. “Me, Rob, Damonte (Dodd), Ceko (Michal Cekovsky), we’re all a force in the paint. Me and Robert were rolling so the guards kept giving us the ball.”
Carter had game highs of 19 points, eight rebounds and a couple of ferocious blocked shots in 24 minutes. “I feel like I’m one of the hardest players to guard in the country one-on-one,” said Carter. “One-on-one, I feel I’m always going to be efficient because I’ve been doing it all my life. It is easier with talent around you.”
Marshall, which had won four of its last six games coming in, can’t argue with Carter after watching him hit 8-of-16 shots from all over. He had a dunk. He hit half hooks, a couple of turnarounds and two 3-pointers.
“Robert was good, and Diamond was good when he got in there,” said Turgeon. “He makes it look so easy how he scores around the basket. That was our plan. I thought we shot too many jump shots early, but we settled down and we went inside.”
Carter was the focal point early and Maryland’s first run coincided with his success on the low block and then Stone coming in and making a couple of plays inside, too, where the Thundering Herd (4-9) had no answer for his size and/or quickness.
Since acquiescing to come off the bench and let defense-minded Dodd start, Stone is averaging 14.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and shooting 57 percent from the field over the last five contests. “I realized that we’re a team and it’s not all about me,” he said of the adjustment in mindset. “If we’re winning and I’m coming off the bench it’s a good win. It’s no more individual goals any more.”
That’s a timely realization with Maryland wrapping up nonconference play and heading into the Big Ten battles. The Terrapins host Penn State Dec. 30 at 5 p.m. in the Big Ten opener then play at Northwestern Jan. 2.
“I think we’re ready for it,” said Turgeon. “Our guys like to be challenged, they’ll be excited. The building will have a different buzz to it on [Dec. 30] night because it’s Big Ten play. We just have to get a little big tougher. We’re playing a Penn State team that plays with toughness.”
The Terrapins had to shake off a little rustiness – 19 turnovers and not defending great off ball-screens in the first half. They hadn’t played since Dec. 19, when beating Princeton in Baltimore and practices have been few and far between over the holiday break and prior to that with exams.
Color Turgeon worried before the game against a Marshall team that presented some match-up problems on the Thundering Herd offensive end. “(Their) big guys can handle it and drive it,” he lamented. “The first half we had a hard time guarding them. I thought second half we were much better.”
Within striking distance, the Thundering Herd missed nine of their first 10 shots to open that second half. Yet somehow, Marshall was within 52-41 at 14:32 when Stevie Browning scored inside.
And that’s about the time the Maryland offense, somewhat streaky on the day, shifted back into gear. The Terrapins would shoot a blistering 15-of-30 from the field in the second half and knock down seven of 16 3-point attempts, many in a decisive 25-10 blitz that turned that 11-point lead into a 77-51 advantage with 6:31 to play when former Marshall signee Jaylen Brantley hit his second 3-pointer in the spurt.
When Brantley scored on a hard-charging drive at 4:15, the Terrapin lead was 82-55, the largest of the game. Brantley also chipped in a career high six rebounds in 14 minutes, and all in all, looks much more steady and ready to give Maryland quality minutes as the schedule heats up.
Layman also had two 3-pointers during the run, part of his eight points, all in the second half, and all in a row for Maryland. He was one of the tall Terps chasing smaller Marshall players, too.
The biggest roar for long distance marksmanship from the sixth Infinity sellout (17,950) this season, however, came with 36.6 seconds when walk-on Trevor Anzman drilled a corner three-ball, the first points of his career.
Perhaps the Terrapins’ ability to pull away in this one, though, was more rooted in their ability to defend the perimeter, allowing just 1-of-13 shooting by Marshall from deep in the second half, and just 13-of-40 (32.5 percent) overall. For the game, Marshall equalled a season-low with 19.4 percent (6-of-31) from 3-point range.
“The first half, they had their offense running at a high level,” said Turgeon. “We were scrambling and running around and our rotations were bad, and it hurt us on the boards. They had 11 second-chance points at halftime. We changed our ball-screen defense the second half and I thought that really helped us settle down and be a better defensive team.”
“I thought we performed well as a frontcourt,” said Carter. “I think they average 80 points (78.2) a game and we were able to hold them to 67. We were able to control the ball the way we wanted to. We made the right plays and guys made their shots.”
Given Maryland’s significant size advantage, once the Herd started heaving up more and more buffalo chips from deep, this one was over. The Terrapins had a 44-37 rebounding edge but didn’t need many boards while shooting 51.5 percent – their ninth time over 50 percent in 12 contests – for the game.
Along with Carter and Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon, with 14 points, and Melo Trimble, with 13, also scored in double figures. Sulaimon added five rebounds, four assists and two steals, and Trimble had five boards and seven assists, his fifth game with at least that many in the last nine contests.
“They need to do that, they’re complete players,” said Turgeon. “That many long shots, there are going to be long rebounds. Our guards need to chase those down. We missed some early in the game. Rasheed, Jake, Melo, I expect them to be stat-stuffers. They’re those kind of players. The more complete they are as players, the better team we are.”
The Herd also had five players in double figures, led by 11 from four players – Browning, Jon Elmore, Austin Loop and C.J. Burks.
In the fast-paced game, Maryland had a big 33-17 edge in bench scoring, led by Stone, but also including eight from Brantley, and three apiece from Jared Nickens, and Anzmann. Starting center Dodd was scoreless, playing just 12 foul-plagued minutes, and grabbing three rebounds.
Stone had better luck. “These last practices, we’ve been working on defense so I think Rob and I stepped up to the challenge of guarding perimeter players,” he said. “Marshall had two good perimeter players and Rob and I locked in. I thought we did a good job of shutting them down.”
The Terrapins ran off the final nine points of the first half to lead 46-36 at the break. Loop had drilled a 3-pointer for Marshall to again bring the Herd within one at 37-36, at 4:00, but that was the Thundering Herd’s last score of the half. Stone, who had eight first half points, dunked in a Sulaimon miss, then Sulaimon drilled a three. Trimble scored on a tough drive in traffic on the break, and Sulaimon closed the half with a one-handed bank at 6.9 seconds for his 11th point.
Maryland shot 52.8 percent (19-of-36), including 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) behind the arc, but had trouble putting away the Conference USA visitors, who dropped to 0-5 on the road.
The Terps had led 29-16 at 10:05 when Sulaimon scored in transition but the Herd thundered back. It was 34-21 when Carter, on his way to 15 first half points, got a three-point play at 8:34, but Marshall ran off the next 12 points. When Loop hit one of his three first half 3-pointers, the Herd were back within 34-33 at 5:22, and the game was back on.
Carter hit a wide-open 3-pointer at 4:53 to stop the streak and provide Maryland’s first points in 4:41 on the clock. The Terrapin defense tightened and allowed just one more field goal over the last 5:21. Marshall shot 14-of-37 (37.8 percent), hitting five 3-pointers in 18 attempts (27.8 percent). The Herd was even in turnovers (eight) and held their own on the boards (20-19, Maryland) in the first half.
The Terrapins had trailed early but Carter and Stone keyed a big 18-2 run with four straight baskets inside. Carter then bounced out and nailed a three after Browning hit a jumper for the Herd. Sulaimon, playing aggressively, hit a jumper. Trimble got a three from a Sulaimon feed, and then Stone tipped in his own miss to make it 23-11 at 11:51.
Trimble had hit a three on Maryland’s first possession and Carter a hook on the second but then Maryland wouldn’t make another shot for nearly three minutes, Marshall going up 9-5 on back-to-back scores from James Kelly, their most dangerous scorer, who finished with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting, 0-of-5 behind the arc.
But Carter scored inside, and then after a Marshall turnover, hit a hook to tie the game up at 9-9 at 15:21, and ignite the big Terrapin first half spree.
“I think we are doing pretty well so far,” said Carter. “I think we are ready to dive into (conference play). We just had a break and were ready to compete. It’s hard staying out of the gym for me. I just love. I just love the game so much so I use that time off as time to get better.”