Here are a few things to look for as the Terps get ready to play Marist in the opening round of the Pardise Jam tournament in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
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Turgeon has been known to switch his lineup at the last minute, but his announcement Tuesday that freshman point guard Roddy Peters will "have a good opportunity" to start against Marist means he's probably made up his mind.
Though Peters started the Abilene Christian game because Jake Layman had missed the previous day’s practice with an injury, this could be a more permanent move.
For all Turgeon has said about how much Peters has to learn in running a halfcourt offense and playing better defense, the 6-foot-4 Peters has also shown the coach enough to merit pushing Dez Wells back to his natural position on the wing.
The insertion of Peters into the starting lineup means that someone has to come out, and Turgeon joked with the media after practice that “you guys will be the last to know” about his lineup changes.
There are a number of ways Turgeon can go.
He can take junior guard Nick Faust (City) out and use him as more of an offensive spark off the bench, putting Layman on the wing. He can take junior forward Evan Smotrycz out, and have him come off the bench shooting 3s. Considering Faust is a better defender, Smotrycz might be the odd man out.
Also, depending on how Maryland matches up with Marist, Turgeon could take out sophomore center Shaquille Cleare and go to the smaller lineup. That would likely be Peters (6-4), Wells (6-5) Faust (6-6) Layman (6-8) and Smotrycz (6-9) going up an 0-4 Marist team that has only one starter over 6-5 and has lost by an average of 27.2 points per game, including a 93-48 loss at Providence on Saturday.
A year ago, Turgeon had a difficult time getting comfortable with his rotation because he consistently used 10 players against mostly mediocre competition early in the season. Once the Terps started playing in the ACC, the coach looked as lost in trying to find the right combination as the players did on the court.
This season was supposed to be different. Turgeon figured that he had an eight-man rotation, nine if freshman center Damonte Dodd became a factor. Allen’s injury changed all that, as did the slow development of Cleare at center and the Terps suddenly becoming a pretty awful defensive team.
Turgeon said that if he had a longer bench Sunday, the Terps might have completed their comeback in what became a disheartening 90-83 loss to Oregon State.
“I’ve got to build depth. I’ve got to have guts enough to play it and take the consequences,” Turgeon said Tuesday. “If we’re going to be standing straight up on defense and not playing with more effort than that, I’ve got to play more guys and just see what happens and see if that helps us.”
Look for Dodd, junior point guard Varun Ram and even junior transfer Jon Graham, who can play inside, to get more of a run in St. Thomas. But Dodd is the one who might eventually see more time consistently if Cleare continues to struggle.
The 6-9 center from the Eastern Shore showed a lot to the coaches in preseason workouts and played well in an exhibition game against Catholic. He has been used sparingly in the first three games.
“I was hoping he’d play better the other night but he picked up two quick fouls,” Turgeon said. “Is he ready? Probably not. Is his athletic ability against Catholic take over? Yes. Against Oregon State, maybe not. ... I have to get Damonte more significant minutes, five or six minutes in the first half.”
Turgeon’s first two Maryland teams won more than their share of games with defensive effort. A year after finishing 11th in the country in field goal defense at a little over 38 percent allowed, the Terps have been embarrasingly soft at that end.
“Every guy needs to get better defensively,” Turgeon said. “There’s not one guy that’s playing at a high level defensively.”
Connecticut shot 30 of 58 from the field against the Terps and Oregon State was 31 of 52, including 48 points on layups and dunks. Even Abilene Christian had its moments and finished 10 of 21 on 3-point shots.
Turgeon knew that his team would miss Alex Len’s ability to block and alter shots at the rim. But the Terps also miss Pe'Shon Howard on the defensive end.
Howard, who is finishing his career at Southern Cal, was a pretty good shutdown defender despite not having the height or quickness of many players he was guarding.
Turgeon said he took Texas A&M to the NCAA tournament with “6-7 center” and thinks that having a player who can block shots at the rim is “a little bit overrated."“Damonte will eventually be that guy [a shotblocker], and [7-1 signee] Trayvon Reed eventually will be that guy," he said. "Right now, Damonte is not ready, and Trayvon Reed is not here. We’ve just got to guard better, it’s that simple."
Maryland’s interior defenders are not the only ones at fault. The Terps have been burned by opposing guards such as Shabazz Napier of Connecticut and Roberto Nelson of Oregon State having big games. Even Abilene Christian’s perimeter players helped build an 11-point lead before the Terps scored the last 29 points to win.
Turgeon defended Faust, who has not quite adjusted to taking over for Howard in a role as a stopper on the perimeter. Turgeon said he wants to see Faust make more of a commitment to that role, but added that the rest of the Terps have to do that as well.
“He needs to. He has to. I’m begging him, too,” Turgeon said. “We watched film late last night and talked about it. It wasn’t all him. That was ball-screen defense and transition defense. Actually Nick did a pretty good job on him [Nelson] when it was head up and he guarded him. “