COLLEGE PARK — Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon admitted after his team's 61-56 victory over Monmouth Friday at Xfinity Center that he was still trying to catch up with the sleep he lost coming back from Kansas City early Wednesday morning. His Terps looked a bit sleep-deprived, too.
Turgeon said he expected some emotional hangover from his players after a draining two-day stretch that began with Maryland winning the CBE Hall of Fame Classic over No. 13 Iowa State on Tuesday and then finding out Thursday it had lost leading scorer Dez Wells for a month with a fractured right wrist.
"I think we were going to be a little flat regardless," Turgeon said. "I put my head on the pillow at 5 a.m. coming home from Kansas City. We were through some things trying to get ourselves back [up]. I knew we were going to be a little bit different animal tonight. I thought we could play out of it, but we never did."
Off to its best start in eight years, Maryland (6-0) will have little time to recover from a shaky win over Monmouth that wasn't secured until freshman point guard Melo Trimble knocked down eight straight free throws in the last 45 seconds, the final two coming with 7.7 seconds remaining.
The Terps take on the Virginia Military Institute (2-3) Sunday at 6 p.m.
Except for Trimble, whose game-high 24 points included hitting 13 of 14 free throws, Maryland failed to find any type of offensive consistency. After building a 16-point lead late in the first half, the Terps wound up shooting season lows of 37.8 percent (17 of 45) from the field and 35.3 percent on 3-pointers (six of 17).
"We were just a little bit out of rhythm, trying getting used to not having Dez and then trying to bring Evan [Smotrycz] back too, there was a double whammy out there for us," Turgeon said. "Evan really hasn't practiced a lot, so it's going to take a little time to figure that out."
Smotrycz finished with a team-high six rebounds and four points, playing 22 minutes in his first game of the season.
Turgeon said a lot of the team's motion offense was run through Wells in the first five games and through Trimble on Friday "but we're going to need Evan as he gets better, Jake [Layman], different guys. Guys got to play a little bit better. We've got good players, good pieces. Maybe we missed his toughness more than anything."
Layman talked on Wednesday about the importance getting on top of Monmouth early and showing that the 72-63 win over the Cyclones at the Sprint Center was a sign of what was to come. That was before Layman and his teammates learned about Wells' injury.
The crispness with which the Terps ran their new offense was gone late in the first half, and never returned for more than a possession or two.
"I think offensively, not just really moving the ball around, which means we got caught standing a lot, that hurt us at the end of the first half and the whole second half, really," said Layman, who finished with 14 points on 4 of 10 shooting. "We were lucky we hit some big shots."
Freshman wing Jared Nickens, who scored 15 points off the bench against Iowa State, made a straightaway 3-point shot as the 35-second shot clock was about to expired with a little under five minutes left to put Maryland ahead by 10, 50-40.
Monmouth (2-3) chipped away at that lead and drew within one point twice on 3-point shots, the second time by junior forward Deon Jones who leads the Hawks with a little under 14 points a game, with 20 seconds to go.
Trimble kept hitting free throws.
Asked how much of Maryland's offensive struggles were directly attributable to losing Wells and trying to reaclimate Smotrycz into a team that has five new players from last season, Layman said: "We definitely miss him, but we know as a team we're a lot better than what we showed tonight with spacing, knowing the plays and stuff like that."
With No. 8 Virginia in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge looming Wednesday at home, the Terps will face a VMI team that has shot as many 3-pointers (159, hitting 65) as 2-pointers made (159 for 335). The Keydets have also surrendered more than 100 points in the last two games, losses to West Virginia (103-72) and North Carolina-Wilmington (110-93).
Turgeon recalled what he told his team when it went into its locker room with a 10-point halftime lead on Friday.
"I told the team at halftime, just because we won a tournament and beat a pretty good team doesn't mean [we'll] beat everybody by 40," Turgeon said. " You just don't do that in college basketball. Some nights are going to be harder than others and you've got to figure how to win a game and we did it."