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Maryland sharing the ball much better this season

Terps are third in the country in assists at 18.8 per game

By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

7:04 PM EST, December 11, 2012

COLLEGE PARK —

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Mark Turgeon's statement wasn't exactly true. But it certainly felt true.

The Maryland coach was contemplating his team's assists — the Terps are third in the nation at 18.8 per game — and comparing it to last year, when they averaged a paltry 10.6, last in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"I haven't looked up to see how many assists we had last year as a team," Turgeon said Tuesday before the team (8-1) practiced for Wednesday's game against Monmouth (5-5). "I imagine we're getting close to that already, which is kind of scary."

Maryland had 339 assists last season. Less than one-third of the way into this season, the Terps — who have won eight games in a row — already have 169.

That's not quite where Turgeon may have imagined. But if Maryland continues at the current clip, it will surpass last season's total by 262 when it reaches the same number of games.

Point guard Pe'Shon Howard leads the ACC with 5.9 assists per game. Howard and fellow Terps Nick Faust and Seth Allen are all in the ACC's top six in assist-to-turnover ratio.

"I'm really pleased with the way we're sharing the basketball," Turgeon said. "I have coaches that come to practice [and] they're like, 'Coach, you guys really share the ball.' I just constantly try to get them to pass."

Last season was noteworthy for a lack of passing. Maryland's assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.8 put the Terps in a four-way tie for last in the ACC.

Guard Terrell Stoglin, who left school after his sophomore season, made and took more than twice as many shots as any of his teammates.

Stoglin was tough and self-assured with the ball. But he spent portions of games brooding on the bench after Turgeon pulled him for taking bad shots.

Stoglin led the ACC in scoring, and yet Maryland finished 17-15 and missed out on postseason play. The returning Terps seem to have learned from that experience about offensive balance.

"We're not really caught up in the whole scoring, stat-line thing," said Faust, whose 28 assists are third on the team. "I witnessed one of the best scorers in the country (Stoglin), and it didn't affect our team at all. Having one scorer, you're not going to win big games and get you to the [NCAA] tournament."

Turgeon, a former Kansas point guard, has said he wishes basketball players received statistical credit not only for passes that lead to baskets, but also passes that set up passes contributing to baskets. That's the way it is in hockey, which can award more than one assist per goal.

Turgeon's players seem to have bought in to the coach's philosophy.

"We love making the extra pass," said swingman Dez Wells, who is second on the team in scoring (12.4 points per game) and fourth in assists with 27. "It's happening a lot more as we become … better as a team. Our chemistry gets a lot better."

Notes: Monmouth has lost its past two games, including 108-56 to Syracuse. Maryland and Monmouth have not played since 2001. … With 20 points and 11 rebounds over the past two games, Maryland freshman Shaquille Cleare has put together his best back-to-back efforts of the season. "In the last two games, he's had a chance," Turgeon said. "I'm happy for him. He's a good kid."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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