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Morning Shootaround: Terps start hot, hold off Stony Brook

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 night's game and what the Terps will be working on at practice looking ahead to their next game.

Maryland 76, Stony Brook 69 on Friday night at Comcast Center

3-POINT SHOTS

In a season where the Terps have faced the defending national champion (Kentucky) and a team ranked one spot off the bottom of Jeff Sagarin's Division I rankings (UMES), the game against Stony Brook was situated perfectly in the schedule -- coming off a nine-day break and going into what Turgeon said afterward was a welcomed eight-day break.

It was easy to tell how much Maryland worked in getting ready for Stony Brook. The offensive execution for most of the first half and parts of the second was the best Turgeon's team showed all season. Maryland not only hit 11 of its first 13 shots and 17 of 29 in the first half, but was successful on a corresponding number of possessions.

The second half gave Turgeon material to work on after his team comes back from a few days off for Christmas -- how to protect a big lead against an efficient team, the need to get a little tougher inside and the importance for Maryland's freshman class to get back to the level it was playing at earlier in the season -- in particular power forward Charles Mitchell and center Shaquille Cleare.

"For us to be up 20 on that team shows you that we did a lot of things right to get there," Turgeon said. "Then I thought the game got physical. We couldn't score around the basket. They got a lot of second-chance points. Give them credit, they never quit. I thought their experience really showed when the game got on the line. ... I was shocked at how well we were playing [in the first half]."

Turgeon singled out Stony Brook forward Tommy Brenton, who played at River Hill.

"The local kid, Brenton's really good. We knew he was good -- eight rebounds, nine assists, nine points -- that's pretty good numbers," Turgeon said. "He was really kind of the difference out there."

ON FURTHER REVIEW

I recently wrote in Terps Trio that Maryland's outside shooting could be its downfall this season. The Terps came into Friday night shooting a little over 32 percent on 3-pointers, including 11 of 41 in the previous two games.

So what did they do Friday night? Pe'Shon Howard (4 of 14 on 3-pointers coming in) started what turned out to be 9 of 18 on 3-pointers by sticking his first 3, with Nick Faust (9 of 34) and Dez Wells (3 of 17) following suit. I think Howard taking and hitting a 3 early in the game set the tone offensively in the first half.

"I think Pe'Shon just wants to win, he got good looks, he stepped into them, our offense flowed better in the first half, they did a much better job of guarding us in the second half," Turgeon said. "We've really been on Pe'Shon about shooting the same way every time, stepping into his shot, taking his shooting seriously, we need him to make open shots."

Howard said he has heard from many people on and off campus about not shooting enough.

"I just go with the flow," Howard said. "Coach told me if I'm open, shoot it. The media has been yelling, fans have been yelling, people I've never seen before have been yelling, I think my teachers told me a few times to shoot it if I'm open. The real goal is to make sure I shoot it when I'm open, to be aggressive, it helps my teammates, it help keep people off the bigs. Scoring kind of gets guys open. I made a few shot early and it got guys open on the wing because people were watching me."

Howard took just five shots and scored eight points, to go along with seven assists, but it seemed like he was much more aggressive than in most games this season.

FAUST'S NEW ROLE

Turgeon said earlier this week that he has told Faust that he will only play point if Howard and freshman Seth Allen get into foul trouble in order to help the sophomore from Baltimore "really lock into the wing position."

Faust scored only seven points Friday, but he played a terrific all-around game with seven rebounds and five assists, including a neat three-quarter court pass that Wells timed perfectly and turned into a one-bounce layup to give Maryland that 20-point lead Turgeon was talking about.

"I just embrace whatever Coach throws at me, it doesn't matter as long as I feel I do it to the best of my ability," Faust said. "I had an off-day offensively, but Alex and Dez were having great nights and I was just trying to get guys the ball, rebound. I felt like I played a well-rounded game"

Asked about the 60-foot pass he made to Wells, Faust said: "I just wanted to float it over the defender. Dez just hunted it down and finished."

HITTING THE BOOKS OR THE WALL?

If there was a bit of concern after Friday's win, it centered around the play of three of the freshmen. While Allen hit 3 of 4 on 3s and scored nine points in 20 minutes -- he also only had one turnover after having seven in 15 minutes in Maryland's last game -- Mitchell, Cleare and Jake Layman continued to struggle. Mitchell got off to a good start, with four points and four rebounds in eight first-half minutes. But Cleare failed to score and grabbed only two rebounds in 14 minutes and Layman didn't even get off the bench in the second half after not scoring -- he did get two rebounds and an assist -- in four first-half minutes.

I know the coaches are attributing some of it with going through final exams for the first time, but the Terps are going to need contributions on a more regular basis from all of them as the ACC season gets underway. "Charles started well, he didn't get a chance in the second half, so that's not his fault," Turgeon said. "Our 4 man tonight who was [James] Padgett and Charles, they weren't very good to be honest."

BONUS POINTS

Turgeon was upset with one call in particular down the stretch and yelled at referee Jeff Nichols during a timeout.

Nichols is the son of Hall of Fame referee Hank Nichols.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Terps have off until playing Delaware State on Dec. 29. Turgeon is looking forward to the break and amazed that his team goes in with a 10-1 record and a 10-game winning streak despite a somewhat soft schedule that included just one road game.

"Sitting around last summer if you told me that we would be 10-1 at Christmas break I wouldn't believe you," Turgeon said. "We are 10-1, we are getting better, we are learning while we continue to win. I think we need a break. I have been at them pretty hard. The break will be great for us."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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