Mark Turgeon was waiting. Not biding his time, mind you. This was not an endeavor for patience.
He knew all along, particularly during a scheduling interregnum between the season opener against Kentucky and Saturday's ACC opener against Virginia Tech that often led to games of little lasting consequence and even less immediate interest, his freshmen would be needed.
"Just in practice, they weren't ready," Turgeon said. "I kept waiting for them to get ready and they weren't.
The 94-71 demolition of the Hokies didn't herald the arrival of Seth Allen (21 points) or Charles Mitchell (eight points in the first half) or Jake Layman (20 points).
(Well, OK, it basically did herald Layman's arrival).
In general, though, Maryland's newcomers didn't entirely come out of nowhere. Yet the freshmen in aggregate signaled they would be around for some time to come, a boon for a Terrapin team now on a 13-game winning streak.
The Terps (13-1, 1-0 ACC) played almost the whole game without Nick Faust, who played five minutes because of muscle spasms. They dealt with Dez Wells' foul trouble. Alex Len, while solid, was not the dominant player he was earlier in the season.
And it was still a rout, Allen and Mitchell and Layman and Shaquille Cleare taking turns with eye-popping moments before the first sellout crowd of the season in College Park.
"They're big-time players," Turgeon said. "All our new guys played well. It's amazing. We thought Nick was going to be healthy. ... We really did that game without Nick, and then Dez was in foul trouble. It's pretty comforting to know you can do that."
Nothing was more comforting than finding out Layman has appeared to put his early-season struggles behind him.
On the Terps' first possession, he drilled a 3-pointer. He added a few dunks, kept taking and making open shots and offered a dynamic not often seen in November and December.
"That first shot, I was happy I hit it and I kept making them," Layman said. "It was a good night for me."
Indeed it was. In an eight game stretch from Nov. 20 to Christmas, Layman scored a total of 17 points. He nearly topped that figure in the first half against the Hokies (9-5, 0-1).
An effective Layman offers a different element to an already deep Maryland rotation. His defense has improved (he helped contain Jarell Eddie on Saturday) and he can function as an outside shooter and a guy who can fly in to clean up off rebounds.
And he's 6-foot-8, offering a matchup element certain to create some problems down the road.
"He's like the little brother that's bigger than the big brother and doesn't realize his potential and how good he can be," Wells said. "Once he really, really hones his potential and gets it himself and gets going and his confidence rises, he's going to be one of the best players to play at Maryland."
Allen, with his speed and rapid learning curve, could be, too. Same goes for Cleare, already a mammoth presence unafraid of contact. And Mitchell is a rebounding savant, a skill that tends not to disappear as a long as a player remains in shape.
It wasn't just those four who spurred the Terps to a raucous win. But they played a crucial role in a conference triumph for the first --- and surely not the final --- time.
Maybe Maryland's freshmen weren't fully ready for their initial test. Even Turgeon acknowledged they are now.
Little wonder it felt like a big game, even if it wasn't Duke or North Carolina coming out of the visitor's locker room.
"It was fun to watch," Turgeon said. "That was a lot of fun. I know it's not going to be like that every game, but that was fun."
--- Patrick Stevens