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 coach Mark Turgeon and his team are doing.
Here are a few things to look for as the Terps get ready to play at Virginia Tech at noon Saturday.
NO LETDOWN, NO LETUP
Considering that the Hokies have lost seven straight Atlantic Coast Conference games after winning their opener at Miami back in December, you would think that a team such as Maryland would have no trouble making it eight in a row.
Even at 4-4 in the ACC after Wednesday’s 74-71 win over the Hurricanes, Turgeon knows the Terps are not a lock to finish the first half of the league season over .500.
Maryland barely won at Cassell Coliseum a year ago with Alex Len, so winning there again is not going to be easy for a team that lost at North Carolina State a couple of weeks ago.
“Our last road game, we kind of blew it,” Turgeon said of a game in which Maryland blew an 11-point lead early in the second half. “I expect us to play well [Saturday], I really do.
"To be good on the road, you’ve got to defend and rebound. We haven’t done that very well this year. Hopefully, our defense will be good and our rebounding’s good, and if we continue to share the ball, it will give us a chance.”
Asked whether he expects the Hokies to be a “desperate team” against the Terps, Turgeon said: “I think we’re all desperate at this time of year. It’s hard to win in the league. … There’s no way they can be more desperate than we are. Our will to win has to be as great as theirs or more.”
Freshman Roddy Peters had his longest and most productive game in more than two weeks Wednesday against Miami, getting in earlier than usual and finishing with four points, two assists, one steal and no turnovers in 13 minutes.
While Peters was barely playing — a total of 23 minutes over the previous three games — several players talked about the important of making sure the 6-foot-3 point guard didn’t lose his confidence. He went scoreless in the three games, and missed all five shots he attempted.
“I definitely got to talk to Roddy a lot,” junior guard Nick Faust (City) said last week. “Just keep his head up, let him know it’s just a learning experience. Eventually, his time will come again. As long as we keep him positive, keep him locked in, he’ll be fine.”
The two baskets Peters scored against Miami showed he had not lost his aggressiveness or confidence. The first came after he made a steal near half court, drove against three defenders and was fouled. The second was on a short jumper, something Peters hadn’t been able to hit all season.
“It’s hard,” Turgeon said Friday. “It’s a constant — teaching, recognizing things, but he was better. Now he went one-on-three, was lucky and scored and got fouled. Those are the ones you try to get rid of, but he was aggressive.”
Turgeon said Peters hadn’t played much recently because of what he wasn’t doing on the defensive end.
“I think he’d play more if he would get a little better defensively,” Turgeon said. “And he knows that. We’ve just got to keep plugging. But offensively, he really helped us. We’ve been working on him making the floater for about six weeks. It took him three weeks to make it in practice.”
If he plays against the Hokies, Peters will have an interesting matchup against 6-4 freshman Devin Wilson, who is playing more than 33 minutes a game and averaging 9.3 points and 4.5 assists.
Wilson recently had back-to-back games of 20 points or more, including a career-high 26 (with 11 of 14 from the free-throw line) against Wake Forest, but scored just five and had three turnovers in Virginia Tech’s 76-52 loss at Boston College on Wednesday.
Turgeon decided after the Miami game to change his postgame routine from holding a team film session to working in smaller groups of players with individual members of the coaching staff. Turgeon said particular attention was paid to defensive responsibilities.
“I get a little too negative at times when we do it as a group,” Turgeon said. “This way, it can be a little more constructive criticism, even though mine’s constructive. This time of year, we’ve got to build confidence, too. Hopefully, it will be more of a commitment to doing it right on defense. For us to get better, we’ve got to get better at that end.”
Evan Smotrycz, who had Wednesday what Turgeon called the “best game” since the junior forward transferred from Michigan, said the sessions are more focused on what players should do individually, with a particular emphasis on defending ball screens.
“Sometimes in a group, Coach might address what one guy did, and other guys will tune out because it wasn’t them," said Smotrycz, who finished with 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting (3-for-4 on 3-pointers), with four assists and a steal in 31 minutes. "When it’s individually, a coach can look you in the eye and tell you what you need to know."