ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands -- A few observations from Sunday's Maryland-Northern Iowa game in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam and thoughts about Monday's championship game against Providence:
** The margin of victory Sunday wasn't a true indication of how competitive the game was, and the fact that the Panthers are not a big-name opponent might hide that this is one of Mark Turgeon's better wins since coming to College Park.
Truth is, this was a game Maryland could have easily lost down the stretch after having an 11-point lead cut to two. After losing to Oregon State at home a week ago, the Terps were almost in a must-win situation in terms of not having fans continue to turn on Turgeon.
"It's good to win two in a row. It's good to beat a good team that's going to win a lot of games," Turgeon said. "We've put ourselves a little bit behind the eight-ball [by losing two games early in the season]. I have a lot of respect for their coach and their program. I was as nervous as I could be all day."
** As balanced as Maryland played offensively, with four players in double figures, the Terps have to get more from sophomore center Shaquille Cleare. After being assertive and efficient in the opening round win over Marist, hitting all four shots, Cleare didn't attempt a single shot or get an assist in 23 minutes.
Cleare has said all along that his job is to play defense, rebound, block shots and set screens for shooters. He played well defensively on Northern Iowa center Seth Tuttle (6 of 17, 18 points) and helped free up Dez Wells and Jake Layman in the pick-and-roll, but Cleare is going to have to show some sort of consistent presence offensively to keep defenses honest.
** Turgeon can't keep going back and forth on who his point guard is going to be. I understand that Roddy Peters might have been better coming off the bench Sunday given the opponent and the circumstances, but Wells is not going to physically dominate opponents in the ACC as he did the Panthers.
Wells played one of his best all-around games since coming to Maryland last season, finishing with 16 points, six assists, six rebounds, two steals and just one turnover in 38 minutes, but he better serves this team on the wing than he does at the point.
** Maryland is right back in nearly the same situation against Providence Monday night. While the Friars are 6-0 and play in a bigger conference than Northern Iowa, they have traditionally been a bottom tier program in the Big East.
Winning an in-season tournament, even one that might not have the prestige of the Maui Invitational or others that attract Top 25 programs, would be another step for Turgeon's team. The Terps haven's won a regular season tournament away from College Park or Washington since the ECAC Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden in 1990-91, Gary Williams' second year.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun