By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun
8:08 AM EST, January 17, 2013
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 news 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.
Final score: Maryland 51, No. 14 North Carolina State 50 at Comcast Center on Wednesday
You know it was going to happen eventually. It took Mark Turgeon 49 games in College Park to get his first true signature win. He had a couple of victories last season -- at Clemson and at home over Miami -- that helped the Terps keep building toward this season and kept their fans hoping for a breakthrough.
It nearly came in the season opener against Kentucky, then ranked No. 3 in the country and now not even sniffing the Top 25. As ugly as this one was to watch, even for Turgeon and the sellout crowd, it will only be remembered as a one-point win in a couple of days or weeks.
But the reality is that Maryland needs to build off its first big win of the Turgeon era and knock off another ranked team -- or even unranked North Carolina on Saturday -- to not lose the feeling it had leaving the fan-swarmed court after beating the Wolfpack.
"When you are young starting two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior who wasn't here last year, it isn't going to be easy," Turgeon said. "I am really happy for the guys because I have been on them very hard since Florida State."
But Turgeon will be back at practice Thursday, getting ready for the Tar Heels, trying to get his team to run its plays like he draws them up, hoping that the Terps can find a way to start making shots, particularly 3-pointers. He might even want to have Dez Wells work on breakaway dunks.
Despite game-winner, Len has to do more
Though Len wound up making the game-winning shot -- the first the 7-foot-1 sophomore center from the Ukraine said he has ever made anywhere -- and played well down the stretch, scoring Maryland's last six points, I keep waiting for him to explode the way he did in the season opener against Kentucky (23 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots.)
Though he has put up solid numbers, a player who many expect to be an NBA lottery pick next spring hasn't dominated that way since. For all the muscle he put on over the summer, you expect Len to be able to take over against a team that doesn't have a regular player over 6-9. Except for that closing stretch, which gave Len a team-high 10 points, he was nothing more than ordinary.
Len said after the game that Turgeon doesn't care about his offensive numbers, as long as he's playing good defense.
"Coach doesn't really care how we play on offense, he wants us to keep guarding," Len said. "When we watch film, we don't watch our offensive plays, we are trying to figure out our defense and who we are going to guard."
I know that Turgeon preaches defense, and said that given his team's continued offensive struggles, the Terps need to "hang our hat" on defense. They seem to be doing a better job getting the ball inside to Len, or at least on the baseline, but Maryland still needs Len to use his size and added strength more than he has for most of the season in order for the Terps to pull off a few more upsets.
The flick of Pe'Shon Howard's right wrist on his off-balanced baseline heave in the waning seconds Wednesday was an indication that Maryland's last play had broken down. Give Howard credit for getting the shot -- and it was a shot -- to the rim. But that wasn't a pass. Even the official scorer ruled it a shot.
Still, Howard has been in such a shooting slump -- 0-for-13 coming into the N.C. State game -- that his performance against the Wolfpack was certainly the most positive thing that has happened to him since the ACC schedule began.
Coming off the bench for the second straight game, Howard finished 3 of 9 from the field and 1 of 4 on 3-pointers, yet his seven points, five rebounds, two assists, no turnovers and some tough defense against Wolfpack gunner Scott Wood (3 of 13, including 3 of 11 on 3-pointers) was one of his better games this season.
"I definitely think Pe'Shon played with a chip on his shoulder," said sophomore Nick Faust (City), who started at the point for the first time since the end of last season. "Just trying to believe himself and the team [believe in him]. He played well today. He did a great job."
Speaking of the point guard situation, Turgeon seemed pleased with the way Faust ran the team, despite the fact that he made only 3 of 11 from the field. He had seven rebounds, three assists and only one turnover in 31 minutes.
Big Ten preview
I know Turgeon said that he wants to have a high-scoring offense, but the past few games seem to be an indication that the Terps, until they find a way to hit a few more shots, will be happy grinding out wins as they did against the Wolfpack.
The Terps didn't shoot well (21 of 61), but they held the top scoring team in the ACC (as well as the top shooting team and second-best team on 3-pointers) to 31.5 points below its average and 21.7 percent below its field goal percentage.
Though Maryland is two years away from its transfer to the Big Ten, the Terps look to be playing a style that Wisconsin fans would appreciate. The only problem is that Maryland fans won't, and though some of Turgeon's teams at Texas A&M and Wichita State built their success on this kind of approach, I am confident that low-scoring games won't become his trademark.
No history majors
While the play that resulted in Maryland's game-winning shot didn't resemble the historic dunk by N.C. State's Lorenzo Charles off an airball by Dereck Whittenburg to beat Houston in the 1983 NCAA title game, there were more than a few folks who mentioned it after Howard's airball found its way to Len's fingers.
The Terps -- nearly to a man -- had no clue what we were talking about in the press room. You had to excuse Len for his blissful ignorance, since he grew up in the Ukraine.
But the questions about that shot were met with blank stares by both Faust and freshman guard Seth Allen.
I saw Dez Wells, who grew up in Raleigh, N.C. later on the court and when given all the particulars, said, "Yeah, I've seen that."
Boy do I feel old.
Does Saturday's game at North Carolina (11-5, 1-2) look a little different for Maryland (14-3, 2-2) after a win rather than a third straight defeat. While Roy Williams said on Monday's ACC coaches' teleconference that his Tar Heels feel a lot better about themselves after beating Florida State on the road last Saturday, North Carolina has not been that good at home this season either. The Tar Heels lost there recently to Miami and narrowly beat East Carolina and UNLV. If the Terps can silence the crowd early, it might turn into what former Florida State guard Sam Cassell (Dunbar) famously referred to as a "cheese and wine" -- that's how he said it folks -- crowd.
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