As Maryland rolled through the least-challenging portion of its schedule, coach Mark Turgeon maintained that he would whittle his 10-player rotation to seven or eight as the competition grew more difficult.
With Saturday’s ACC opener against Virginia Tech less than a week away, however, Turgeon is still stuck on 10, and for good reason. Using their long bench, the Terrapins (11-1) have won 11 straight games, their longest streak since capturing 13 in a row in their national championship season 11 years ago.
On Monday, Turgeon said he was considering a change of heart regarding his rotation.
“I don’t ever want to say this is the way it’s going to be. I don’t like to coach that way. I like to more or less coach by feel,” Turgeon said. “I do think that in certain games we’ll play a 10-man rotation with pretty close to equal minutes and other games we won’t. Who will be the guys not playing as much? I don’t know.”
Entering Christmas break, logical candidates to lose their slots were slumping freshmen Jake Layman and Charles Mitchell. But in a 79-50 romp over Delaware State on Saturday, Layman (seven points) played with more confidence than in recent games, while Mitchell delivered career-highs in points (19) and rebounds (14).
“I think going home helped [Layman] a lot,” Turgeon said of the Christmas break. “I think Jake would be more unhappy about not playing the way he wants to, than about playing time. That’s the kind of guys we have.”
Early this month, Mitchell had drawn the ire of Turgeon by gaining some of the weight he lost in the preseason. In three games prior to Christmas, the 6-8, 260-pound Mitchell had a combined six points, nine rebounds, and five turnovers in 30 minutes. On Monday, however, he was named ACC rookie of the week.
“The ball bounced his way the other day, which was good to see,” Turgeon said. “I was happy for Charles because he had worked really hard since the Monmouth game to get in shape and get his body right.”
With Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (6-11) of the Summit League up next on New Year’s Day, the freshmen have another chance to demonstrate they belong and make it more difficult for Turgeon to pare down the lineup.
While tightening the rotation would give Maryland a better chance to develop cohesion, there is a benefit to rotating 10 as it keeps the Terps fresh, keeps more of them happy, and aids their long-term development.
“The thing that’s been nice is that a lot of guys have gotten better. Across the board, guys are really improving at a fast rate, so we don’t have as many any holes when we play,” Turgeon said. “You look at the 10-man rotation, every piece is different. Therefore they all know how they can help us in different ways.”
Notes: With an RPI of 272, IUPUI is the ninth team Maryland will face with a current RPI of 190 or higher … While Maryland ranks No. 5 in rebounds (43.7 per game) and No. 2 in field goal defense (34.4 percent), IUPUI ranks No. 323 in rebounds (30.4 pg) and No. 331 in field goal defense (48.1 percent) … IUPUI is led by Purdue transfer John Hart (14.7 ppg), a 6-2 senior, and Mitchell Patton (13.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg), a 6-9 junior … Todd Howard is in his 17th year at IUPUI, the last two as head coach after Ron Hunter left to take over at Georgia State.
IUPUI at Maryland
When: Tuesday, 3 p.m.
Where: Comcast Center, College Park
Radio: ESPN 980 AM