By Gill Vesely
The energy in the XFINITY Center was palpable Friday night as Diamond Stone, Robert Carter Jr. and the rest of the Maryland men’s basketball team took to the hardwood to open up the 2015-2016 season in an exhibition game against Southern New Hampshire University. Maryland went on to win the contest handily, outscoring SNHU 91-55, in front of almost 14,000 fans.
The Terps were not lacking in the accolade department entering the game, having garnered a No. 3 ranking in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls as a team, and boasting numerous awards as individuals. All of that recognition was put aside, though, when the Terps and the Division II Penmen hit the court.
Stone started at center for Maryland, and quickly helped the Terps get on the board with the first points of the game: a soft, low-arching hook shot from the left side. He was 3-3 from the field in the first half, but only saw five minutes of action in the period after picking up two quick fouls within the first 10 minutes of play. Head coach Mark Turgeon spoke about the decision to restrict Stone’s minutes at the beginning of the game.
“I talked to him. I said, ‘Diamond, depending on the game, you might not sit the whole half with two fouls.’ Tonight we were able to do it. I said, ‘but I’ve got to be able to trust you that [if] I put you back in, you’re still going to play defense without fouling,’” he said. “It was a lot easier tonight. Later in the year, bigger game, he gets used to the speed of the game defensively, yeah, he might go back in with two fouls.”
Stone saw more action in the second half, and finished with 16 points and five rebounds on 6-for-9 shooting from the field. Jared Nickens, who also secured a starting role of the Terps, had 10 points without any turnovers in 26 minutes of action.
“Jared played more aggressive,” teammate Melo Trimble said after the game. “He’s been working really hard over this past summer and it’s starting to show.” Nickens, who last season was second on the team with 57 three-pointers, attempted just three in the game, making one of them.
Nickens’ lack of three-point shooting may have resulted from an “inside-out” mindset that Turgeon referenced as a point of emphasis for the game.
“I asked our kids to do a couple things tonight,” Turgeon said. “I asked them to play hard defensively, and I think we did that, and I asked them to play inside-out on offense, I think we did that, and then I just told them to be great teammates, and I think we did that.” With the additions of Stone and Carter to the starting lineup, the Terps looked to feed the bigs down low first, leaving shots outside the paint as secondary options.
“Diamond started off very well,” Carter said, “and then I think I picked it up in the second half. The big guys, we get more touches, and if you double[-team] us, we’re going to try to make you pay on the outside.”
The Terps will open their regular season when they take on Mount St. Mary’s at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13 in College Park.