BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Maryland opens its 2012-13 season against defending national champion and third-ranked Kentucky Friday night at 8:30 on ESPN. The game will be played in the brand new Barclays Center, which opened in September and is the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
• The Terps return four key players from last season’s 17-15 squad: guards Nick Faust and Pe’Shon Howard, center Alex Len and forward James Padgett, and welcome a freshman class that was ranked in the top 20 nationally. Maryland also added two transfers who are eligible to play immediately in Dez Wells and Logan Aronhalt. Wells, who on Wednesday was cleared to play by the NCAA, is an athletic, physical and versatile guard. The sophomore averaged 9.8 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game for Xavier last year. Aronhalt is a proven scorer that netted 1,100 points in his career at Albany.
• The addition of freshmen Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare provide bulk and depth to the frontcourt, Jake Layman has the versatility to play small or power forward, and guard Seth Allen adds to the backcourt. Allen was the high scorer in Maryland’s lone exhibition with 16 points, while also adding five assists and five steals without committing a turnover. Mitchell had a game-high 15 rebounds in just 18 minutes of action.
• Faust, a sophomore, is Maryland’s leading returning scorer. A member of the ACC All-Freshman Team a year ago, Faust averaged 8.9 points per game and was at his best at the end of the season, averaging 13.4 points per game over the final nine contests. Padgett, meanwhile, nearly tripled both his scoring (3.3 to 8.8 ppg) and rebounding (1.9 to 5.8 rpg) averages from his sophomore to junior seasons. Howard is Maryland’s active career leader in assists with 158, and Len will look to have a breakout sophomore season after averaging 6.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a freshman.
• The Terps have won 10 straight season debuts, with the last loss coming to Arizona, 71-67, in the 2001 Coaches vs. Cancer semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
• Maryland defeated UNC Wilmington 71-62 in last year’s season opener. Among returning players, James Padgett led the way with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting, along with seven rebounds.
• Head coach Mark Turgeon has won 12 of 14 regular-season openers in his career, including 10 straight. His only two losses were with Jacksonville State to open the 1999-2000 season, and Wichita State to open the 2001-02 season.
• Friday won’t be the first time Mark Turgeon and John Calipari have shared a basketball court together – their relationship goes back to Turgeon’s playing days at Kansas. Turgeon was a point guard at Kansas from 1984-87, while Calipari was an assistant coach there from 1983-85.
• Head coach Mark Turgeon and his staff signed a consensus top-20 recruiting class this season with freshmen Seth Allen,Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman and Charles Mitchell.
The influx of talent gives Maryland the opportunity to extend a streak of being recognized for having talented young players in the program – for three years in a row, a Terp has been on the ACC All-Freshman Team. Prior to Nick Faust last year, Terrell Stoglin was honored in 2011 and Jordan Williams was honored in 2010.
Taking on the Defending Champ
It’s been a while since Maryland played its regular-season opener against the defending national champion – almost 29 years, in fact. The Terps last opened the season against the defending title holder on Sunday, Dec. 2, 1973, when they played UCLA. At that time, the Bruins had captured seven straight national championships and were in the midst of a 76-game winning streak. Maryland, coached by Lefty Driesell, fell to the Bruins 65-64 at Pauley Pavilion.
From the Washington Post’s recap of the game:
“Defending national champion UCLA needed a turnover forced by Bill Walton in the final seconds to survive a 65-64 thriller over Maryland tonight in Pauley Pavilion.
The Terrapins, who trailed by as many as 12 points earlier in the second half, had an opportunity to break the Bruins’ winning streak at 76 games after UCLA freshman Richard Washington, reputed to be last year’s best high school player, missed a foul shot with 22 seconds left. Tom McMillen grabbed the rebound.
After a time out, point guard John Lucas was forced into the right corner, where he was double-teamed. Walton batted the ball out of his hands and toward center court. Bruin teammate Tommy Curtis picked up the ball and was driving toward the Maryland basket when time ran out.”
Maryland went on to finish the season 23-5 and ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press poll. Before advancing to the National Semifinals later that year, UCLA had its winning streak snapped at 88 games in a loss to Notre Dame.