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 night’s game and what the Terps will be working on at practice looking ahead to their next game.
MARYLAND 71, MONMOUTH 38 @ COMCAST CENTER, WEDNESDAY
*** It happens to college basketball teams every December, when the schedule becomes more sporadic and the competition spotty.
Good teams – or potentially good ones like the Terps – regress.
It seems to be happening to Maryland over its past two games, sloppy and sleep-inducing victories over South Carolina State and Monmouth. What’s a coach to do after a 33-point victory that included a first half that was, as Mark Trugeon said, “probably the worst half of basketball one of my teams played, maybe ever?"
The good news is that the Terps now have more than a week off before their next game, giving Turgeon time to work on some things in practice. Also, coming off two poor performances, Maryland’s performance against Monmouth will help the coach get his players’ attention.
“This is good for me because we have a lot of time to practice and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
Sophomore guard Dez Wells, who Turgeon said might have been the only player deserving to start the second half against Monmouth, said “We just have to take this as a learning experience and we’re going to have a long practice when we do it again.”
For some reason I don’t think Turgeon will wait that long ...
*** I agree with Turgeon’s move to return to his regular starting lineup after tinkering with it for two games and giving some of the freshmen and senior transfer Logan Aronhalt a chance to hear their names called and their pictures displayed on the overhead screen in the darkened arena.
Initially I thought Seth Allen might eventually replace junior Pe’Shon Howard at the point, but Allen has become a little too careless with the ball, evidenced by his seven turnovers in 15 minutes (“He was working on a world-record pace for turnovers,” Turgeon said) against Monmouth.
The Terps had a season-high 23 turnovers.
This after Allen had “his two best practices of the year -- go figure -- and then we didn’t take care of the ball and he had his worst game of the year.” Turgeon said, adding, “ I’m not worried about Seth, I’m not worried about turnovers, I am worried about our ability to get into our and that’s what I’ve got to get corrected.”
Another move many believed was imminent was Turgeon starting Shaquille Cleare after starting the 6-9 freshman against Maryland-Eastern Shore last week, and then Cleare playing one of his better games Saturday against South Carolina State. He had only two points but did have five rebounds Wednesday.
“It’s frustrating because Shaq has been really good in practice and he was – let me temper it – he wasn’t very good when he went in,” Turgeon said. "He was lost, spinning in circles.”
Cleare wasn’t alone among the freshmen. Charles Mitchell, who already has had a couple of double-doubles, didn’t score for the first time this season and had only three rebounds in 11 minutes. Jake Layman, who sat out the first half for disciplinary reasons, scored one point and had three rebounds in 13 minutes.
“I just feel like I keep giving these guys minutes, hoping they’re going to get better,” Turgeon said. “Everybody talks about what a great class this is, but they better start. ... To me you judge a class when they graduate. They’ve got to a lot better for us to get where we want to be this year.”
Said Wells: “When we’re in the second half of the season, freshmen are not considered freshmen anymore. They’re almost upperclassmen. They have to take this a lot more seriously than I guess they do.”
Wells, who has quickly emerged as one of the leaders, said that he and others like Howard and sophomore guard Nick Faust have to take some of the responsibility for the growth of freshmen off of Turgeon and the coaching staff.
“That’s on the veterans. We have to demand more from them and stay on them and say a lot more than we do to the other veterans,” Wells said. “We have to guide them and stay in their ear and keep their confidence up and keep them motivated.”
*** Layman’s lack of confidence these days is noticeable. When the Terps opened the season, the 6-8 forward seemed to have a bit of swagger with the way he ran and a high energy level, even if he wasn’t shooting the ball well.
But his shooting woes, which bottomed out with an 0-for-6 afternoon against South Carolina State, have led to the rest of his game getting out of sync. A couple of times when he had to put the ball on the floor as the shot clock ran down, Layman looked completely lost.
Layman was the only one of the players in Turgeon’s regular rotation not to be used in the first half Wednesday night – and Turgeon made it clear afterward that it was because of an off-court issue involving academics.
“He didn’t care of his academics so he had to be in study hall instead of practice Monday,” an obviously peeved Turgeon said. “When I left on Saturday [after the game], I said, ‘It’s 4 [p.m.] and you have until Monday at 3 [p.m.] to get everything done, and he didn’t get it done. He’s lucky he played.”
I am not sure why, given the combination of his academic issues and his on-court struggles. But if Layman doesn’t improve in both areas, it could be a long freshman year for the second highest-rated freshmen behind Cleare.
“He’s got to be tough enough to have confidence,” Turgeon said. “He’s got to give himself confidence. He’s got to get it back. He doesn’t have it. It’s painfully obvious.”
*** I have written a few times over the course of the season – even going back to the preseason – that I thought Maryland’s schedule was too soft and it wouldn’t do the Terps any good. Turgeon went as far as to say that he didn’t know he would have Wells and Aronhalt when he finalized the schedule last spring.
But now it’s pretty obvious why Turgeon has played mostly a home schedule – only one true road game at Northwestern and the season opener against Kentucky in Brooklyn, N.Y. – before the ACC season begins in early January.
“I scheduled so I could throw these guys into the fire,” he said Wednesday. “We’re playing Monmouth. Nothing against Monmouth, but our guys should play better against Monmouth. I think the problem is that everyone is telling these guys how good they are because of our [9-1] record, and they’re listening instead of listening to me. We’re all going to fine.”
LOOKING AHEAD: The Terps don’t play again until Dec. 21 against Stony Brook (7-2). Aside from Kentucky and Northwestern, the Sea Wolves could be the best team the Terps have played to date, with decent size and experience back from a 22-win season and a second straight NIT appearance. Given the nine-day layoff between games – and the fact that Stony Brook, which has won four of five road games, plays on Dec. 18 – this could be an interesting test.