Career-best game lifts Terrapins to a blowout
It can happen to the best of freshmen. They arrive on campus in the fall bright-eyed and ready to excel. By the end of that first semester they are stressed and tired, and they quickly fall into bad habits.
So it was for Maryland forward Charles Mitchell, who started off the season strong but quickly found his minutes limited as coach Mark Turgeon became dissatisfied with his work habits and his physical conditioning. Mitchell is playing himself back into the rotation, though. He set career highs in points (19) and rebounds (14) on Saturday in the Terrapins' 79-50 blowout of Delaware State at Comcast Center.
"I think it's real simple: [Mitchell] gained weight," Turgeon said. "He wasn't playing minutes. We weren't doing the extra conditioning, which he needs. He was probably eating a few pizzas at night that he shouldn't be eating. He got back to his discipline."
It wasn't exactly the "Freshman 15," Mitchell joked. He insisted it was closer to six or seven extra pounds put on since the season started. After playing at least 16 minutes in six of Maryland's first eight games, Mitchell had seen 11 minutes or less in the previous three dating to a Dec. 8 contest against South Carolina State. If he wanted to play more, Turgeon was going to make him earn it.
"I had got into some bad habits, got a little heavy," Mitchell said. "I do conditioning before, after practice -- just any time I can run, I get up and run to get my body back the way it used to be. It took a lot of people on my tail."
Either way, Mitchell and his fellow freshmen are starting to understand what's expected of them as ACC play approaches next weekend. Mitchell, forward Jake Layman (seven points), guard Seth Allen (10 points) and forward Shaquille Cleare (six points) combined for 42 points -- all of them off the bench.
"It's getting close to conference [play], and [Turgeon] is really pushing all the freshmen to give effort," Allen said. "[Junior guard] Pe'Shon [Howard] always says, 'It's getting close to conference time. We got to tighten up.' All the freshmen are putting in extra work at what their weaknesses are."
For Mitchell, that means extra free throws in addition to his conditioning. He hit three of four Saturday. For Layman, that means working on closing out open shooters. For Allen, it is ball-handling drills and defensive work. Cleare, too, is focused on his strength and conditioning.
The Terps (11-1) weren't sharp early. They trailed for most of the first 12 minutes, and Turgeon subbed one starter after another out of the game. It didn't take long to find an answer, though. Down 16-15, Maryland reeled off a 25-6 run over the final 9:06 of the first half.
That stretch was sparked by Mitchell, who finished an Allen pass for a layup, hit a short jumper and added another layup on a feed from teammate Alex Len. Just like that the Terps were ahead 21-16 and never trailed again. Sophomore Dez Wells contributed a jumper and later a vicious dunk that wowed the crowd during what became a 17-0 run.