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Sports Terps Tracking the Terps

Mark Turgeon and the Terps made the right adjustments in their win over Miami

COLLEGE PARK — The critics who have been on Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon this season for his team’s stagnant motion offense and soft man-to-man defense were silenced — at least for the moment — in the aftermath of Wednesday’s 74-71 over Miami.

Not only did the Terps move better without the ball for most of the game, but so did the ball itself, leading to the second-best shooting night (56 percent) of the season and one of the best halves of shooting (69.6 percent in the second half) in Turgeon’s first three years.

Though the defense still has its issues with giving up too many easy shots, particularly near the basket, Turgeon’s strategy of starting the game with a fullcourt press and then going to a zone for what turned out to be the crucial part of the second half helped get Miami out of its lull-you-to-sleep offensive sets.

“I’m encouraged by the way we’re sharing the ball, and all our defensive mistakes are correctable,” Turgeon said after his team broke a two-game slide and won for only the second time in the past six games.

With all that, Maryland (12-9, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) needed junior guard Dez Wells to score all 21 of his points in the second half and to hit a rare 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds to play to beat rebuilding Miami (10-10, 2-6) at home. Wells went 7 for 7 from the field and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the second half after not taking an attempt before the break.

Even after the Terps blew a 10-point lead in the last 1:45 of the game, Turgeon could take as much satisfaction as solace that his team had won. With its next game at free-falling Virginia Tech, which has lost seven straight, Maryland could finish the first half of the ACC schedule over .500 with a win Saturday in Blacksburg.

“We just want to play better. [Being] 4-4 is not bad. We let one get away [at N.C. State last week]. We’d love to be 5-3 but we’re not,” Turgeon said Wednesday night. “It’s hard to win in the league.

“We know what’s ahead with four of the next five on the road with the Florida State team sandwiched at home — that beat us by 24. We’ve got our work cut out for us. But I’m excited. We’re sharing the ball. We’re scoring.”

The Terps had 15 assists, equaling the most they’ve had in an ACC game this season, evidence of the way they shared the ball. It marked only the fourth time all season that they had at least five more assists than turnovers.

Junior forward Evan Smotryzc had 15 points and four assists with no turnovers, and he could have had a couple more assists if Maryland’s big men could finish near the basket. Sophomore forward Jake Layman also scored 15 points.

“We wanted to be patient and just get the best shot we could,” said Smotrycz, who also had a key strip during the run that helped the Terps build a 71-61 lead with 1:45 remaining. “Guys knocked down some timely ones, and early we were just moving the ball well and we were getting to the line a little and making some layups and making some open 3’s.”

Said Wells, “It was just a good game for us as a team. We defended really well in the second half. We could have [done] better. It’s a learning experience for us, and I think we can build off this win.”

Turgeon is aware that Wednesday’s game could have been another crushing defeat, even worse than the one the Terps suffered last week at North Carolina State or the ones they had at home early in the season against Oregon State and Boston University. Beating Miami is far from a signature win, but it was one that keeps the season going forward.

“I told our kids after the game, sometimes it’s [better] getting a win like that than just getting an easy one,” Turgeon said. “I hate the way we finished the game, but I can fix that. That’s not going to be a problem moving forward.”

Asked if the way he changed defenses helped energize his team, Turgeon said, “I thought our halfcourt zone was good for us in the second half. We didn’t get a rebound one time, but I thought it was good for us. It’s better when we have certain lineups in there.

“But we had to change things up. In the end, we want to play our man-to-man — that’s what we all want as players — but to change the defenses was good. As we move forward, I think we’re going to have to do that as best we can. Maybe even add another defense somewhere.”

don.markus@baltsun.com
twitter.com/sportsprof56

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