Terps Looking for More Bench Production

One thing is certain when Maryland and Duke meet Wednesday: Scoring will be plentiful. Both teams are on offensive binges, averaging more than 82 points each in the last five games. Duke does most of its damage on the perimeter while Maryland has found success inside, but the glaring difference between the two is bench production.

Maryland has seen little of late, and it has forced coach Gary Williams to stick with his starters. The lack of a dependable bench could spell trouble as the regular season winds down and legs start getting heavy.

"I think it's going to be instrumental in how far we can go," said Bambale Osby, who has admitted tiring towards the end of recent games.

"Looking around the country, looking at [North] Carolina, looking at the Kansases, the UCLAs of the world, I mean they got eight, nine people that can really play. I think the starting five for Maryland is averaging 31, 32, 33 minutes."

The Terps' bench, comprised mostly of freshmen, has been in a state of flux this season. While a set rotation has developed since the start of ACC play, which guys play when and for how long has been inconsistent. As has the production.

In the last six games, only seven times has a Maryland starter played fewer than 30 minutes. During that same stretch, the reserves have averaged just 8.2 points per game. But Maryland has been scoring big—and winning—so it hasn't concerned Williams.

"You go into each game trying to win that game. It's not about playing guys more minutes," Williams said. He also cited TV timeouts—a two-minute rest every four minutes—as a reason why starters can play longer.

Duke has four reserves averaging more than 11 minutes per game and its bench has averaged 28.1 points per game, second-best in the ACC. Jon Scheyer, Taylor King and Nolan Smith are integral parts of Duke's attack, and each comes off the bench. The depth, combined with Duke's up-tempo style, has made life difficult for opposing teams.

"It makes it extremely difficult to defend and you have to have equal quickness defensively at every position," said Boston College coach Al Skinner, whose team lost to Duke 90-80 on Saturday. "Not many teams have that and that's why they're having the outstanding year that they're having."

Maryland, meanwhile, continues to search for a reliable bench rotation. Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie have solidified themselves as the top backcourt reserves. Bowie has played some point guard and is a lockdown defender, while Tucker is a smart, athletic wing.

Who can be a reliable frontcourt reserve is less certain. Shane Walker is an energetic spark and Dave Neal is a savvy jack-of-all-trades, but neither is too much of a scoring threat. Braxton Dupree, who started eight games earlier this season, has struggled in ACC play, averaging just 0.8 points per game.

"What I tell Braxton is, ‘Look, man, you got to start having fun, you got to play free, you just can't worry about nothing, just go out there and play,'" Osby said. "We need people to play; Shane is playing, Dave Neal is playing… We can use somebody with their size, their athleticism to get on the floor.

"Having somebody that can come off the bench and give legitimate rest in the post position, it'll be huge for us."

Osby has avoided foul trouble for the most part in conference play, reducing the need for extended minutes from the bench. He said, though, that more rest in the first half would make him a better second-half player.

In the teams' first meeting on Jan. 27, Duke outscored Maryland 51-33 in the second half en route to winning 93-84. The outcome of the second match-up for Maryland will likely be determined by how well its guards can defend Duke's perimeter scoring and how much production it can get from its inside game. Both will require hearty contributions from the bench.

"We understand they need help and they're going to get tired," Dupree said. "They can't play an entire game so we've got to come out there and pick it up the way they played."


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