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SportsTerpsTracking the Terps

Don Markus previews Maryland's Paradise Jam semifinal vs. Northern Iowa

College BasketballBasketballNorthern Iowa PanthersUniversity of the Virgin IslandsMark TurgeonMissouri Valley Conference

Welcome to a second season of Morning Shootaround. We will follow the Terps throughout the 2013-14 season, but in this space this year, we will provide a look ahead, rather than back. We will try to analyze Maryland's strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of its upcoming opponent. We also hope to provide quotes and anecdotes from practices to give some idea of what Mark Turgeon and his team are doing.

Here are a few things to look for as the Terps get ready to play Northern Iowa in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Raising their game

Even if Turgeon wasn’t familiar with Northern Iowa from his years in the Missouri Valley Conference — including a buzzer-beating loss that still haunts him — what the Panthers showed in their first-round victory over Loyola Marymount would have been enough to keep him up Saturday night.

As Turgeon and his assistants watched Friday’s game from the first row of the bleachers at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Sports and Fitness Center, Northern Iowa made 10 of its 14 3-pointers in the first half of what turned into a nine-point win.

“I played them a lot of games," Turgeon said. "Obviously, they’re very well coached. They’ve got a lot of shooters, they got a good big man in [Seth] Tuttle and two little guards that can break you down on ball screens. They’ll be a lot harder to guard than the team we played tonight."

When the Panthers weren't firing from long distance, they got the ball inside for easy baskets. Considering the issues Turgeon’s team had had playing a full game of defense until Friday’s 68-43 win over a winless Marist team, Turgeon knows Sunday won’t be easy.

Turgeon is hoping to build on that defensive pressure Sunday, which probably means junior guard Nick Faust (City) will be used to help slow down Northern Iowa’s Matt Bohannon, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who has hit 12 of 18 shots his last two games, including eight of 13 3-pointers.

Faust had his best game this season Friday as the team’s defensive stopper, holding Marist’s leading scorer, 6-5 junior Chavaughn Lewis, to 13 points on 4-for-13 shooting, with six turnovers.

“We weren’t great [offensively], but the good thing is that we were pretty locked in defensively on almost every possession,” Turgeon said. “We were really good around the rim, which we haven’t been. I know they’re not a great scoring team, but we held them under their average. We really guarded. To come off [allowing] 90 points against Oregon State felt good.”     

Depth perception

As he often did last season, Turgeon used a 10-man rotation against Marist, with junior guard Varun Ram (River Hill) playing a major role after Dez Wells got in early foul trouble and freshman center Damonte Dodd getting nearly as many minutes (12) as he had in the first three games combined (15).

Even little-used transfer Jon Graham (Calvert Hall) got a couple of minutes. Turgeon also made one significant change to his starting lineup, moving junior transfer Evan Smotrycz to the bench and freshman point guard Roddy Peters into the starting lineup.

It’s not clear whether Turgeon will make any lineup changes against Northern Iowa, but the nine-man rotation will likely stay for the time being. Turgeon said a lack of depth — and confidence in his bench beyond Peters and maybe Ram — caused the Terps to run out of gas against Oregon State.     

“You’ve got to build depth, Varun is going to be a part of that, Damonte is going to be a part of that. We’re trying to build it,” he said Friday. “I thought we built it tonight, but we’re going to be playing agianst better competition on Sunday, so we’ll see if the depth can help us on Sunday, too.”

A lot of it has to do with Turgeon braving the use of his bench. Some fans have called for him to play a couple of starters less — a struggling Faust is at the top of the list, and Wells might not be too far behind if he remains in a funk — and go with someone like Dodd more.

“If you’re going to build depth, you can’t be afraid to play anybody, no matter what the situation is,” Turgeon said. “Things weren’t going well [early on against Marist]. I’ve got to have confidence in all my guys that I’m playing.”     

Having a little fun in paradise

Compared to his team’s trip to the Bahamas last summer, Turgeon said before leaving College Park last week that coming to the Virgin Islands was strictly a business trip. The Terps and a large contingent of fans are staying in a luxury resort, and while it's certainly not Atlantis Paradise Island, we’re not talking about a Holiday Inn Express in Cleveland, either.

Turgeon and his team went out on catamarans Saturday in the Caribbean. Terps junior forward John Auslander said the Terps saw all manner of sea life while snorkeling off the boats (pictured above), including large sea turtles. When they got back, the players could be seen on the beach outside the hotel.

It’s not like the late Rick Majerus, who once locked his Utah team into their rooms in Maui, Hawaii.

They’ll have a lot of time to kill Sunday for a 7 p.m. start, and even more time Monday if they get to the 10 p.m. tip-off for the championship game. I guess that will make up for holding Maryland Madness at Cole Field House beginning at dinner time. On Monday, it really could be Midnight Madness.

don.markus@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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College BasketballBasketballNorthern Iowa PanthersUniversity of the Virgin IslandsMark TurgeonMissouri Valley Conference
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