Watching a Maryland Terrapins game last season, a viewer would know what to expect. Role players would step up from time to time, but to create consistent points the offense would rely heavily on Bruno Fernando and Anthony Cowan.
In tight games, both would need to produce a large workload. Whether it was a post feeds to Fernando or a high-ball screen with Cowan, you could anticipate the ball being in their hands down the stretch.
“I believe last year we played a lot more through Bruno a bit because of his ability in the post,” said sophomore Aaron Wiggins. “When you have somebody like that, you gotta get him the ball.”
But after an offseason featuring Fernando’s departure to the NBA, players reshaping their bodies and hours spent in the gym, Maryland’s nucleus, which was one of the youngest in the country last year, is suddenly much improved. They currently have four players averaging over 10 points per game and have become way more than just a two-man show. Seven different players have scored over 10 points in just five games.
“Having that depth, being able to score in multiple different ways it’s tougher for other teams to control us. I mean knowing that it could be anybody’s night. Last game (Fairfield) Eric went off,” said Wiggins, who is one of the players averaging double figures. “Knowing that anybody can get going at any moment is really scary for teams.”
The newfound offensive balance makes life easier for Cowan. While it’s still early, the senior point guard has seen his minutes and points decrease. But, his assist numbers have jumped and he is shooting the ball at a better clip as well. The Bowie native’s assist to turnover ratio is better than 2:1 for the first time in his career.
“(It’s) a lot easier. A lot of times in years past, teams really try to game plan for me. But now we have a lot of people scoring and a lot of people in double-figures each game,” said Cowan who had eight 20 point games last year. “It’s hard to shut only me down when everybody’s scoring.”
There is pressure off of Cowan, but he’s not the only one reaping the benefits of the offensive symmetry. Jalen Smith, the team’s leading scorer, has stepped up in the absence of Fernando. With a multitude of capable shooters surrounding Smith, teams cannot afford to double-team him and the sophomore has been a menace inside averaging 14.4 points per game.
“We got a bunch of offensive threats, so teams have to guard each individual player. It may be one guys night and it may not be one guys night, but we always got somebody to back that person up,” said Smith.
On Friday night against George Mason, the Patriots doubled Smith on his first two touches on the block. Both times, the burgeoning forward found open teammates for easy buckets. George Mason adjusted and Smith saw few doubles the rest of the night.
The schedule difficulty will vastly increase as the winter months approach and the Terps will naturally turn Cowan and Smith for more production. But keeping balance will be key. Four of the past five national championship teams had at least four players averaging 10 points per game. If Maryalnd wants to raise a banner for the first time since 2002, it will need to continue to share the wealth offensively.
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