Welcome back to Morning Shootaround, a regular feature this season the day after Maryland basketball games. While we can’t bring you into the Terps’ locker room after games – reporters haven’t been allowed in there since the last couple of years under Gary Williams – we will recap what was said in the press conference afterward by Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and his players. We will give some of our own insight into what transpired on the court during the previous day’s game and what the Terps will be working on at practice looking ahead to their next game.
Since your mind is elsewhere today – some football game down in New Orleans, I gather – we will not try to divert your attention away from how to make a perfect jumbalaya or crawfish etouffe for your Super Bowl party for too long.
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We promise not to interrupt your thoughts about whether Ray Lewis is going to stay away from any kind of animal-like dances tonight. (One type of animal in particular that rhymes with beer).
So we will go right to what Maryland’s best shooting game (67.2 percent, including 17 of 23 in the first half ) in an ACC game since 1986 – and their fifth-best shooting game all time – means to the 2012-13 Terps.
Considering the Demon Deacons were coming off a 5-point loss at home to Duke, it’s impressive how quickly the Terps turned this into a rout (26-11 in the first 10:48). Given how awful the Demon Deacons have been on the road this season, it might not be a huge surprise.
It was interesting to hear Turgeon say after the game that he prepared for this one a little differently than other ACC games this season, particularly after a tough down-to the-wire defeat at Florida State Wednesday night that left many of his young players crying in the visitor’s dressing room at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
If there was any emotional hangover fromTurgeon thought was the toughest this season – perhaps since he came to College Park – it disappeared quickly.
“We put less effort into the scout [team] than we have in awhile because we were mentally tired,” Turgeon said. “We knew who the drivers were, knew their shooters and non-shooters, and the guys did a great job until we lost a little bit of focus the last seven or eight minutes. It’s a sign of maturity, we are growing up.”
As confounding as it for Turgeon to coach this team, it’s just as confusing to cover it. Just when you think you have figured out his rotation or starting lineup, he changes it. Just when you think he has given up on one player or that another has moved into the rotation or lineup, the player does something to lose his Turgeon’s confidence – and playing time.
Padgett becomes asset
Turgeon has always appreciated the blue-collar work ethic of senior James Padgett. A year ago, with few options, Turgeon played the 6-8 forward more than anyone ever thought (23.6 minutes a game) after Padgett had being buried on the bench his first two seasons under Gary Williams. To his credit, Padgett helped keep the Terps competitive for much of the season with nearly 9 points and more than 5 rebounds a game.
Because Padgett’s limitations were often exposed against bigger, more athletic players and teams, many figured his playing time would dwindle this season with the development of freshmen Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare. I wrote as recently as the day before the 20-point loss at Duke that it was time for Turgeon to move on from Padgett and junior point guard Pe’Shon Howard.
He seemed to by last week, when Padgett’s role had been reduced to single-digit minutes for three straight games and Howard’s minutes dropped as well.
Then came Wednesday’s loss in Tallahassee, when sophomore center Alex Len played just 17 minutes because of foul trouble and Padgett played a season-high 31 minutes– one off his career high. Padgett didn’t come out after Len picked up his fourth foul with a little more than a week gone in the second half.
On Saturday, Padgett said that he learned “about 10 minutes before game time” that he was starting for the first time since Jan. 13. The Terps went inside to Padgett on their first possession, and on their fourth. Both times he scored, and wound up making all six of his shots – most of them on what Padgett confidently called “my patented left-handed hook.”
Turgeon said that he started Padgett because he figured that the Demon Deacons would go to a smaller lineup, meaning he didn’t needed Cleare or Mitchell at the start.
“He scored early, we went right to him,” Turgeon said. “When he made the [first] shot, he gave up a three at transition at the other end. I thought, ‘Oh my god, [Travis] McKie is going to get hot in this building again. James was tremendous in the whole. His defense, his team defense was great. He is a smart player. He takes a lot of pressure off Alex, off of Shaq and Charles when he plays that way.”
Padgett also takes some heat off of Turgeon since some fans have been a little impatient with the development of Cleare, the highest-rated recruit of the second-year coach’s first big recruiting class. Cleare has certainly showed he belongs at this level – and will likely be the starting center next season if Len, as many predict, leaves for the NBA – but Padgett allows Turgeon more flexibility with his lineup.
With three teams that typically go with smaller lineups coming up – Virginia Tech Thursday, Virginia Sunday and Boston College a week from Tuesday – I expect Padgett to keep playing more minutes if he continues to be as productive as he was Saturday. Not 6 of 6 productive – “I don’t remember the last time I shot 6 for 6,” Padgett said – but certainly around 15 to 20 minutes a night.
Point guard shuffle
The revolving door at the point for the Terps continued Saturday – and will probably shift again next week as well. After starting freshman Seth Allen against Florida State – one game after benching Allen until the second half at Duke for being late to a team meeting – Turgeon went back to sophomore Nick Faust (City) Saturday.
Faust, who played well in the second half in Tallahassee (he would have had the game-clinching assist to Len on a lob had the 7-1 sophomore not blown a dunk), did some nice things early (all five of his points and all four of his assists in the first half) against the Demon Deacons before making some sloppy turnovers in the second half.
It gave Allen an opportunity for redemption (nine of his 12 points and five of his seven rebounds in the second half) after not playing well against the Seminoles. Combined with Jake Layman and Logan Aronhalt playing as well as they all season, Allen might have put himself back in the discussion for point guard going forward.
The problem is that neither Faust nor Allen are consistent enough taking care of the ball to give Turgeon, a former point guard whom Larry Brown once said went weeks without making turnovers, the kind of confidence he needs to settle on a player he can count on down the stretch. While Turgeon has been complimentary of Howard’s defense, the former starter is clearly a role player right now.
“Where we go at point guard, I don’t know,” Turgeon said Saturday. “I have a lot of confidence in Nick. Seth Allen played more point guard today than he has in a really long time. He did a nice job with it. Pe’Shon at the point was tremendous defensively today, especially in the first half, he did a great job on [C.J.] Harris.”
Translation: Allen is back in the discussion at point and Faust could be coming off the bench.
I made the rather bold prediction in Friday’s Terps Trio that sophomore swingman Dez Wells could become the next great Maryland player.
I still believe that could happen as long as Wells stays in College Park for another couple of years, but Saturday showed why the transfer from Xavier is still what coaches like to call a “work in progress”. As dynamic as Wells can be in taking a defensive rebound and then going the length of the court for a tough floater, he can be just as out-of-control.
In one sequence late in the second half, Wells lost the ball going for a drive even though he was virtually unguarded, stole the ball at the other end and banged a soaring tomahawk dunk off the back of the rim and into the courtside seats for the second time in a couple of weeks. (He did the same thing against North Carolina State.
By my count, he is 1-3 on his Dr. J imitiation during the ACC season.)
The Terps were up 30 at the time of Wells’ latest missed dunk, but Turgeon was obviously upset and took Wells out during the next timeout. He didn’t return and sat pretty glumly on the bench and left the court with the same look on his face. As much of a purist Turgeon is, he allows his players to have fun – but they had better finish a dunk like that.
Turgeon, who turns 48 on Tuesday, will likely give his team off a couple of days before getting ready for the trip to Blacksburg. Considering the way the Terps dismantled the Hokies (94-71) to open the ACC season back on Jan. 5, you have to think first-year Virginia Tech coach James Johnson will remind his team about that. It might not matter. Though the Hokies took North Carolina into overtime before losing Saturday, they have lost four straight and eight of their last 10. You can now go back to your Super Bowl countdown. How’s that jumbalaya coming?