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 watch as the Terps get ready to play Notre Dame at Comcast Center on Wednesday night.
Neither Pittsburgh nor Florida State were shooting 3-pointers at a very high rate prior to playing Maryland. The Panthers had missed 35 of their previous 50 3-pointers in the four previous games; The Seminoles had missed 40 of 50.
That all changed on each team's homecourt against the Terps.
The Panthers were a respectable six of 10, including a 3-for-4 performance by redshirt junior Durand Johnson (Lake Clifton). The Seminoles were a ridiculous 16 of 25, the most 3-pointers made by an Atlantic Coast Conference team this season.
Maryland lost by 20 to Pittsburgh and by 24 to Florida State.
With a Fighting Irish team that shoots a respectable 37.7 percent (third in the ACC) and makes 7.3 3-pointers per game (fourth in the ACC), the Terps need to close on Notre Dame's shooters better than they did in the last two games.
While Turgeon said that Maryland had a hand either in the face of Florida State's shooters or were in position to bother them on 15 of the 16 3-pointers that the Seminoles made, the replay of the game showed that the Terps were often out of position before flying toward the shooter.
Turgeon doesn't think a bad trend is developing.
"To be honest, they had some of the shots we really wanted over hand," Turgeon said Tuesday after practice. "I told the team afterward, I wouldn't change the defensive game plan we had against them. They just got hot.
"Have we guarded well this year? Not with consistency, we haven't. For us to be any good, we have to guard. We'll be challenged tomorrow. They have all kinds of shooters all over the floor, a point guard who's going to break you down. It's a tough challenge."
Notre Dame junior swingman Pat Connaughton has made 40 of 95 for the season, senior point guard Eric Atkins (Mount St. Joseph) has hit 29 of 77, and freshman guard Demetrius Jackson has connected on 15 of 36.
Maryland forward Evan Smotrycz, who is second behind Jake Layman in 3-pointers made (32 compared to 37) said that the differential in the two recent losses had a lot to do with the long-range shooting of their opponents.
"The way the league is, if you're making shots and the other team is having a drought, the score is going to be really different," Smotrycz said. "Hopefully we can come out and make some shots."
Turgeon said after practice Tuesday that former Duke point guard and current ESPN analyst Jay Williams called him after making what many thought were negative commments about the third-year coach and his team during Sunday's ESPNU telecast.
Williams said that a number of Maryland players seemed to play tight because they feared being taken out by Turgeon if they made a mistake. Williams pointed to a game last season when Faust missed a 3-pointer after hitting a few in a row and was taken out by Turgeon.
"Now look, everybody has different philosophies defensively or, you know, taking good shots or some things — you know, running it through a player and executing — but it seems like some players for Maryland play a little bit tight on the offensive end," Williams said on the telecast.
"And I don't know if that is them just being afraid to get outside of themselves or the coach just demands them to execute more, but if Maryland was a little bit looser offensively and played to their strength, right — which is driving and shooting 3s; being confident; Jake Layman driving down the lane, dunking on people and shooting 3s — I thought this team, if they played a little bit looser, they would be a better basketball team."
Asked to address Williams' comments after practice, Turgeon said that the former No. 1 overall NBA draft choice called him Monday to explain his comments personally. While appreciating that Williams called him, Turgeon didn't agree with what he said.
"I don't know if we're tight," Turgeon said. "I thought at the beginning of the game we were a little bit walking on eggshells, I don't know if it was tight. Maybe we were. Florida State's got some pretty long, lengthy guys out there. It took us a while to get used to that. Did we not play well? Yeah, but because we were tight, I don't think so."
But Turgeon admitted that his team must play differently Wednesday night against Notre Dame, an opponent that he said "plays very loose."
Not only is the current losing streak the first time in Turgeon's 16-year coaching career that his team has lost two straight games by 20 points or more, it's also a first for some of his players.
Turgeon was surprised to hear that it had not happened before, giving how big a rebuilding job he had at both Jacksonville State and Wichita State in his first two coaching jobs.
"How many games is that – 500?" Turgeon asked a reporter who mentioned the statistic.
Smotrycz said that he had never experienced two straight games with as large a deficit before.
"Nothing else we can do about it, just come out and play better," Smotrycz said.