Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker have endured plenty in their Maryland careers, reserves for much of their first three seasons who popped up at times for crucial moments but more often were relegated to complementary and tertiary roles.
Suddenly, it was their time to thrive as seniors, the talented veterans who blocked their way to playing time off enjoying professional careers.
And then ... a false start. Bowie struggled with turnovers. Tucker struggled with streakiness. Both were apparitions on the floor Sunday in the BB&T Classic against Temple.
With Terrell Stoglin scoring with frequency and Pe'Shon Howard playing solidly, the concept of the senior starter in College Park was on the precipice to earning a place on the endangered species list.
Both Bowie and Tucker started in Wednesday's 99-56 rout of UNC Greensboro. Both reached double figures in points, had more than twice as many assists and turnovers and connected on a couple 3-pointers.
Basically, they did their jobs for Maryland (7-3).
"I really believe in them," coach Gary Williams said. "They've been loyal, four-year players. That means a lot to me. I don't know if it means a lot to everyone else, but it means a lot to me. I'll kind of go to the wall for guys like that who have stuck with the program and played behind some good players and now it's their turn. They struggled in a couple games, but that doesn't mean they can't be outstanding players for us this year."
Any analysis of Bowie (16 points, 4-for-5 shooting) and Tucker (13 points, 5-for-10 shooting) starts with the opposition. In terms of overall talent, the Spartans (0-8) are spartan. They're one of nine Division I teams who entered the night without a victory, had just played two days earlier and have won a combined 13 games the last two seasons.
So the numbers only mean so much. The intangible value, however, could be significant for a pair of players who were on the spot after an early yanking in the second half against Temple.
"We're the seniors and we need to lead the team and we didn't do that on Sunday," Bowie said. "We deserved everything that happened to us. Me and Cliff definitely talked about it and we started to start off stronger and we did that this game."
Bowie was perhaps in the tougher spot, what with Stoglin's instant offense a call-to-arms for Maryland's fandom. Stoglin entered the night averaging two more points in nearly 10 fewer minutes.
Stoglin collected 15 points in the opener, Bowie seven turnovers. Despite some solid days interspersed since, murmurs about a potential point guard change never ceased.
"I never thought I was playing for my starting position, but I was worried about my play and how it was affecting the team," Bowie said.
Tucker, unsurprisingly, was the more befuddling of the two. Statistically, Bowie is essentially the same player he was a year ago; his shaky early 3-point shooting counteracted to some degree by free throw shooting well above his career norms.
Tucker, meanwhile, stuck to a career trend as well --- the hot and cold spells, one on top of each other. He was sound early on, then frazzled in three games since Thanksgiving.
With Tucker, the opponent sometimes doesn't much matter. He can play poorly against a chump just as easily as he dominates a champ. And so a balanced night --- five rebounds, five assists and a couple steals to go with the scoring --- only helps the perception Tucker's trouble are (for now, anyway) at bay.
"It's a real significant game," Tucker said. "Probably the last three games I haven't been playing up to my potential. This game, I just stopped thinking about everything and I just wanted to wanted to come out and be much more aggressive."
Nothing bodes better for Tucker than a willingness to take an open shot. He meekly navigated the past few weeks, pausing after receiving passes on the perimeter before scoring chances dissipated in front o him. That worked well with Greivis Vasquez around; with the absence of an obvious outside shooter, it doesn't.
It's no surprise forward Jordan Williams spent time Wednesday encouraging Tucker to shoot more often. Williams will carry Maryland as far as it will go this year, but Tucker remains the guy who can do the most to make the big fella's life easier. Get hot from the outside, and Williams can finish off opponents in the paint.
"It's crazy, because at practice Cliff shoots that thing like you'd never believe and he makes them all the time," Williams said. "I told him 'Just shoot the ball, man, just shoot. That's your game.'"
For a few days, anyway, Tucker's game won't be scrutinized heavily. Nor will Bowie's. That's not to say a change won't happen at some point. It just isn't occurring now.
Gary Williams praised his team for blocking such speculation, such distractions. Yet at the same time, the thought of a lineup adjustment was there, one he dismissed after analyzing video and weighing the veterans' overall body of work.
"A lot of times, it's a gut feeling," Williams said. "I've been doing it for a while, and you get a feel for your team. You hope you don't hurt anyone. You don't want to make an unfair choice. So I think it worked out well tonight."
Indeed it did, strong outings from the senior guards begetting more opportunities in the future. Bowie and Tucker are no longer spare parts, no longer capable of existing in the shadows. The senior starter is thriving and in no danger in College Park, at least for a little while longer.