After a one-point win over Oklahoma State two years ago, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was asked about his team making just four of 22 shots from 3-point range and whether that was an invitation for future opponents to play zone against the Terps.
“Zone us. Please zone us,” Turgeon said.
Even against a team that rarely plays zone defense, Turgeon knows there’s a chance North Carolina A&T will get out of its traditional man-to-man and go with a zone when the teams meet Monday night at Xfinity Center.
For good reason: In Maryland’s first two games, the Terps have shot a combined 7-for-42 on 3-pointers, improving from the 2-for-19 they shot in the 73-67 win over Delaware in the season opener to 5-for-23 in Friday’s 78-57 win at Navy in the Veterans Classic.
“We’ll see. If [North Carolina A&T is] watching us play [against] zones, they might come out in a 3-2 zone,” Turgeon said in a teleconference Sunday. “They might start in it tomorrow night, you never know. … If they zone us, hopefully we’ll attack it well and play well.”
In each of its first two games, it took quite awhile for Maryland to get the ball inside against the zone after being unable to hit its outside shots. It enabled the Terps to hold off the Blue Hens and then put away the Midshipmen.
Having seen his team hit a high percentage of 3-point shots on its three-game trip to Italy over the summer, in its “secret scrimmage” recently against George Mason and in many practices before and during the season, Turgeon is confident the shots will fall.
“As long as we’re taking good shots, I’m happy,” he said. ‘That’s the whole key. I don’t think we're forcing a lot of shots, we’re just not knocking them down. It’s just guys getting comfortable. It’s not like we have bad shooters, we have good shooters.”
That remains a question. Junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. improved his 3-point shooting from 32.1 percent as a freshman to 36.7 percent last season, but has made just two of 14 of his 3-pointers, going 0-for-5 against Delaware and 2-for-9 against Navy.
Freshmen Aaron Wiggins and Serrel Smith, who were supposed to help make up for the loss of Kevin Huerter and Jared Nickens, Maryland’s top 3-pointers shooters last season, are 3-for-12 and 0-for-1 respectively.
Freshman point guard Eric Ayala, who is known for his ability to drive than hit open 3s, is 0-for-4. And sophomore guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph), who hit four 3-pointers in half of a game in Italy after shooting 3-for-25 as a freshman, is 1-for-5.
The poor shooting has overshadowed some of the things the Terps have done well the first two games and have caused the results — especially against Delaware — to be closer than it should have been.
“We really haven’t been terrific in these first two games, really more so shooting the ball,” Turgeon said. “Our execution has been pretty good. Our defense has been pretty good. Our rebounding has been pretty good. Shooting hasn’t been good.
“If we weren’t defending, if we weren’t rebounding, and we weren’t executing on top of the bad shooting, we’d be in a world of hurt right now. ... I think Darryl [Morsell] said it the other night, once we start hitting shots, everything is going to look a lot better.”
Given how early in the season it is, Turgeon doesn’t think that shooting is the only aspect of the game on which the Terps need to improve.
“Right now, there’s a lot of things to fix. I’m not going to get into a lot of them,” Turgeon said. “Coaches are never happy. … I think we can box out and rebound a lot better, that’s a really easy fix. It’s gotten better.”