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Big rebounding numbers vs. Kentucky provide Maryland hope

Terps will battle Morehead State on Monday in home regular-season opener

By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

5:02 PM EST, November 11, 2012

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The box score for Maryland's opening-game loss to Kentucky contained one gaudy, improbable number — 28.

"I've never seen anything like it," Wildcats coach John Calipari said of the 28 offensive rebounds — 19 in the first half — the Terps collected in losing, 72-69, at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Maryland (0-1) — which hosts Morehead State (1-0) on Monday night — shot 33 percent in the Kentucky game Friday night and were just 3-for-19 on 3-pointers. "Our shot selection was poor," coach Mark Turgeon said. "I don't know how many times I said 'shot fake and drive it' because they go after every shot. We never did that."

But the rebounding numbers provide the team hope.

"Coach emphasized the rebounding because they are a long team, so we just went after the ball," senior forward James Padgett said. "We did whatever we [could] to get rebounds — offensive and defensive — and just played tough."

Last season, Maryland was outrebounded by its opponents 593-589 in Atlantic Coast Conference games — one of the statistics that Turgeon is eager to turn around in his second season with the team. Turgeon has set a goal for the Terps of securing at least six more rebounds than their opponent in every game.

Maryland's best effort on the boards last season resulted in 21 offensive rebounds against Wake Forest. The Terps didn't reach 15 offensive rebounds in any other ACC game.

So how do you explain the 28 offensive boards against Kentucky? The Wildcats are a team with 6-foot-10 forward Nerlens Noel, 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein and 6-10 forward Kyle Wiltjer.

Here are some explanations provided by Turgeon and others:

Kentucky's over-aggressive defense: The Wildcats were so aggressive defending Maryland that they sometimes neglected the boards. Kentucky came after Maryland shooters "sometimes with two guys and that's why we got 28 offensive rebounds," Turgeon said.

Long rebounds: Maryland was collecting offensive rebounds partly because it was missing so many shots. Long shots often equal long rebounds. The Terps missed 16 shots from beyond the arc and were often scrambling after the long rebounds far from the basket.

Hustle and adrenaline: Freshman forward Charles Mitchell had 15 rebounds in Maryland's opening exhibition game against Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and had 10 against the Wildcats (six offensive) in 16 minutes. Mitchell played with intensity in his first college game. Other Terps said they, too, were energized by the big-game feel.

Alex Len's improvement: In his second season, the 7-footer is a stronger inside player than last year. That may be attributable to confidence and the 30 pounds of bulk he added during the offseason. "I worked really hard," Len said.

Len had 12 rebounds (seven offensive) on Friday night. He was more visibly emotional on the court, pumping his first after one play and exhorting his teammates.

Only one Terp (Padgett) had more than 12 rebounds in a game all of last season. Padgett had 13 at North Carolina.

"I am very proud of Alex," Turgeon said.

Notes: Morehead State is a senior-led team that can hit 3-pointers effectively. The Eagles were 9 of 23 from beyond the arc in defeating LIU-Brooklyn, 77-74, in the opening of the Barclays Center doubleader Friday night. Senior forward Milton Chavis scored 24 points and converted four of his six 3-point attempts.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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