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 looking 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 3-2 Terps get ready to play Providence (6-0) in the championship of the Paradise Jam tournament at 10 p.m. in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands.
DEZ DEFYING ACT
Ever since Seth Allen broke his foot shortly before the regular season began, coach Mark Turgeon has been going back and forth about who the team's point guard would be at least until early January.
Immediately, Turgeon announced that junior Dez Wells would be the point guard, with freshman Roddy Peters as his backup.
After Wells struggled in the team’s exhibtion against Catholic and in the first half against Connecticut in the season opener, he gave Peters a start against Abilene Christian with Jake Layman not starting because he missed the previous practice with a thigh bruise.
Then, after Peters had early problems early against Abilene Chrisitan, Turgeon went back to Wells against Oregon State. That lasted one game. When Peters played well in the second half against Abilene Christian and had his best game of the season (10 points and six assists) against Oregon State, he returned to the starting lineup against Marist.
Are you following this?
Turgeon went back to Wells on Sunday night against Northern Iowa, mainly because he wasn’t sure whether Peters could defend a bunch of hard-nosed 3-point shooters.
It proved to be one of the best moves Turgeon’s made since coming to Maryland. He returned a slumping Evan Smotrycz to the starting lineup, Wells to the point and Peters to his role as the backup.
Smotrycz had his best game since coming to Maryland from Michigan, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds. Wells had his best game this season running the point, finishing with 16 points, six assists and one turover in 38 minutes.
And Peters gave the Terps a solid 20 minutes off the bench.
“This was a pretty intense game,” Turgeon said of his decision to start Smotrvycz and move Wells back to the point. “I thought Roddy really played well. Defensively I just had to get my best players on the court so that’s why he played. Dez had to play a lot of minutes. Defensively I felt more comfortable with that lineup.”
RED AND RED HOT
Maryland spent its off-day Saturday on a catamaran, and the time Smotrycz spent in the sun showed all over his arms and face Sunday. They were almost painfully red, sunburned, especially his arms, making one think that the 6-9 junior transfer was going to have a hard time lifting them to take shots.
When Smotrycz started off missing his first four shots and committed an early turnover, it didn’t look as if he was going to emerge from a shooting slump that included him missing 18 of 26 shots, including 12 of 15 on 3-pointer.
But just before halftime Smotrycz missed a 3-pointer and Jake Layman got the rebound, fed Smotrycz, who worked his way to the basket for a layup, a foul and a 3-point play to give Maryland a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way.
Smotrycz finished the game by making seven of the eight shots he took in the second half, including all three of his 3-pointers. He and Layman played off each other on a couple of possessions, doing a little pick-and-roll to the corner for open jumpers.
“I’m just glad he played well,” Turgeon said of Smotrycz. “That’s the Evan we thought we were getting when we were recruiting him. He’s hard to guard, he can shoot it, he can drive it, he can pass it, he played smart defensively, he played smart on offense.”
Smotrycz said the play right before halftime got him going in the second half.
“I was able to get to the rim and get a finish before half,” he said. “Even if I miss 10 in a row, I think I’m going to make the next 10.. I’m going to keep shooting even if I’m not hitting.”
Told that the beach time and the sunburn might have helped him, Smotrycz smiled.
"Don’t worry, tomorrow I’ll be carmelized and looking good,” he said.
IN THE NICK OF TIME
Junior guard Nick Faust (City) took a lot of criticism after the Terps lost the season opener to Connecticut by a point at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Though he led Maryland in scoring with 17 points – one off his career high – he missed 13 of 18 shots he tried, including seven of 10 on 3-point shots. Faust also took some heat when Oregon State guard Roberto Nelson went off for 31 points last week.
If he plays as well as he did against Northern Iowa, minus a stretch of late turnovers, Maryland should have a good chance of winning tonight's final. He tied his season high of 17 points and needed only 11 shots. He would have scored more if he didn’t miss a couple of tomahawk dunks.
Defensively, he was largely responsible for forcing Panthers guard Matt Bohannon, who had lit up Loyola Marymount in the opening round Friday, to miss eight of the 10 shots he attempted, all 3-pointers. It led to high praise from Turgeon.
“I don’t know if it’s his best game since he’s been to Maryland but it’s close,” Turgeon said of Faust. “He made some shots [shooting six of 11], he made good decisions, he made two bad decisions later, we talked about it. Defensively he really locked in and tried to guard as best he could. Nick’s growing up, maturing.”
Tonight's tournament final tips off at 10 p.m. (11 p.m. St. Thomas time). Turgeon couldn’t recall starting a game that late.
“The good thing is that we need the time to recover,” he said after Sunday's game. “It’s going to be a long day. Hopefully we’ll let the players sleep in and we can get our meals in. That’s why I hired coach Kyle [Tarp, the director of basketball performance]. He’s the best. It’s up to him to get our guys physically ready to play.”
I wonder if he can get a writer ready to work well past his bedtime.