Welcome to a second season of Morning Shootaround. We will follow the Terps throughout the 2013-14 season, but this year in this space, 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 Morgan State on Friday at Comcast Center:
Turgeon knew going into the season that replacing center Alex Len offensively was going to be as big a challenge as it was defensively. While the 7-foot-1 center was not a consistently high scorer, Turgeon could pretty much count on Len to score in double figures nearly every game.
That has been far from the case with the big men on this year’s team.
While sophomore Charles Mitchell had a streak of four straight games of double-figure scoring to start the season stopped in Maryland’s 80-66 win over Northern Iowa in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam, neither sophomore Shaquille Cleare nor freshman Damonte Dodd has done much offensively.
Cleare had his best game as a Terp in the first round of the Paradise Jam against Marist, hitting all four of his field goals, for eight points. In the win over Northern Iowa, Cleare did not even take a shot, though he played well defensively. In the championship game, none of the three did much inside.
Turgeon said after the game that his team’s struggles down the stretch in a 56-52 win over Providence in the championship game — when a 19-point lead nearly evaporated — could lead to him posting up two of his most athletic wing players, junior guard Dez Wells and sophomore forward Jake Layman.
The change might have to wait until next week, since the Terps had so little time to get ready for the Bears.
“Our low-post scoring has to get better, there’s no doubt,” Turgeon said during a teleconference with reporters Wednesday. “When things are going as bad as they were going [in the last 12 1/2 minutes against Providence], you usually throw the ball inside and try to get fouled or score a bucket, and we were just not able to do that against Providence. And that’s why the game got close.”
Five days after losing an emotional season opener by a point to then-No. 18 Connecticut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Terps came out flat against little-known Abilene Christian at home.
Trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half and six in the second, Maryland needed an unusual 29-0 run to close out the game and make the final score seem more one-sided than the game actually was.
A little more than three days after beating Providence for the Paradise Jam title, Maryland faces a Morgan State team hoping to upset the Terps, as it did in 2009 at Comcast Center.
“Am I worried about a letdown? Yeah, I think the building won’t be very full Friday,” Turgeon said Wednesday. “A little bit concerned. But I also think our guys have gained a tremendous amount of confidence.
“We weren’t a very confident team when we went to St. Thomas [for the Paradise Jam], and it showed in the first half against Marist. As the tournament went on, we became more and more confident.”
Like the Bears, who beat Marist for seventh place in the Paradise Jam, the Terps returned from the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday. Turgeon said his team was expected to practice Thursday.
“Hopefully we’ll be ready to go,” he said.
The player who should most concern Turgeon is 7-2, 270-pound senior center Ian Chiles, who had a career game against Marist. Chiles finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots.
“I know the big fella for Morgan State is coming off his huge game against a really good player from Marist in [Adam] Kemp, so there are some things that we have to do to prepare for him,” Turgeon said.