Turgeon stresses better defense, fewer turnovers as Terps head into ACC opener

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — Like many basketball coaches, Mark Turgeon tends to retain numbers. He can recall Maryland's rebounding margin from two seasons ago, or tell you precisely where one of his former Texas A&M teams ranked defensively.

So it clearly rankles Turgeon that — as the Terps prepare for their 10th game of the season, Thursday night's Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Boston College — the statistics look unfriendly.

There is the assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.9 — a figure about half of what the perfectionist coach hoped for when the season began.

There is the opponents' field-goal percentage of 40.7 — which ranks 10th in the ACC and is worse than last year's 38.5 percent.

There is the free-throw shooting percentage of 62.6 — a figure that would make any college coach wince.

Turgeon, a former Kansas point guard, has a particularly hard time digesting Terps' turnovers (14.2 per game).

"We've got to get the turnovers down," he said Wednesday. "Our guys know it. I think we've done some good things this week that should help in that category."

Taken together, the statistics weigh on Turgeon. They add up to a Maryland team that is 5-4 and still finding its way. But the season is still young.

Turgeon declined to say what measures the team has taken to limit its mistakes. But he indicated that freshman point guard Roddy Peters is likely to be increasingly relied upon, and that swingman Dez Wells will play more off the ball.

"Roddy is our best point guard offensively, and he's getting better defensively," Turgeon said. "I loved the way he finished the [George Washington] game. He stepped up and made those free throws like he was just shooting in the park or shooting in an empty gym."

Maryland lost to George Washington, 77-75, on Sundaybut Peters had 11 points and three assists in 19 minutes.

"He's been huge," forward Jonathan Graham said. "He's made some very, very clutch plays. You know, I'm very proud of him. He's come a long way for a freshman."

Before the season, Turgeon said it would be "exceptional" if the Terps could accumulate twice as many assists as turnovers. They have 110 assists and 128 turnovers so far.

It hurt the Terps when point guard Seth Allen broke his foot before the season. The sophomore is expected back in January.

Without Allen — and perhaps even with him — "I don't think we're a 2-to-1 [assists to turnovers] team," Turgeon said Wednesday. "I don't know if we're capable of that. We haven't been making shots. A lot of our points have been coming on fast breaks and second-chance points, so it's hard to get assists there. It's got to be better."

Before arriving at Maryland in 2011, Turgeon's Texas A&M teams had been known for defense. In his last season there, the Aggies ranked 19th in the nation in fewest points allowed and went 24-9.

"Every coach wants to emphasize defense," Graham said. "Coach Turgeon definitely does. It's the old saying, 'Defense wins championships.'"

It particularly pained Turgeon when the Terps surrendered 90 points to Oregon State and 77 to George Washington in losses. Thursday, they must contain a Boston College team (3-6) with two offensive stars, sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan (19.2 points per game) and junior forward Ryan Anderson (18.0 ppg.)

"Of course we've got to defend better," Turgeon said. "Seventy-five points should be enough to win a game."



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