xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

After cold start on 3-pointers, No. 7 Maryland basketball won’t stop shooting from beyond new line

If there was one concern Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon might have had coming out of his team’s season-opening 95-71 win over Holy Cross on Tuesday night at Xfinity Center, it was his Terps’ shot selection on some of their 27 3-point attempts. They missed 22 of them.

“I thought three of them were bad shots, four of them I think I went through with the team, maybe five — that’s too many,” Turgeon said Friday after practice. “If we have one or two bad shots a game, that’s understandable, especially this early in the season.”

Advertisement

Turgeon still has confidence in players such as sophomores Aaron Wiggins (0-for-6 from 3-point range Tuesday) and Eric Ayala (1-for-6), who led Maryland’s regulars in 3-point shooting last season at 41.3% and 40.6%, respectively.

And Turgeon knows, as least based on what he saw in preseason practice, that senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and sophomore forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph), who were both 0-for-3 on Tuesday, are capable of shooting better from deep than they did last season, when Cowan made 33.7% and Smith 26.8%.

This isn’t new territory for the Terps. A year ago, Maryland was 2 of 19 against Delaware in its season opener and only 24 of 94 (25.5 percent) on 3-pointers in its first four games.

“I think we’re a good 3-point shooting team,” said Turgeon, whose Terps finished fifth in the Big Ten at 35.3% last season after the slow start. “We chart every shot we’ve taken since practice started. We’re about 39% as a team. If we can carry that over into the games, we’ll be a pretty tough team to guard.”

Still, going into Saturday’s home game against Rhode Island, Turgeon hopes that what he considers some of the best 3-point shooters he’s had in his nine seasons at Maryland can find their touch — and maybe their legs — behind a line that’s been moved nearly a foot and a half deeper from last season.

If there’s any consolation for the No. 7 Terps, it’s that some other highly ranked teams, as well as most of their Big Ten counterparts, struggled as much if not more than they did.

No. 1 Michigan State shot nearly as miserably as Maryland from 3-point range. In a 79-72 loss to No. 2 Kentucky in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden, the Spartans were 5-for-26. No. 4 Duke beat No. 2 Kansas in New York, 68-64, despite shooting 8-for-24 from deep. No. 6 Florida was 3-for-15 in a 74-54 win over North Florida.

Among Big Ten teams, Michigan went 9-for-25 on 3-pointers in a 79-71 win over Appalachian State in coach Juwan Howard’s debut. Wisconsin and Illinois both shot 5-for-19 in their respective openers, with the Badgers losing at home, 65-63, to No. 20 Saint Mary’s and the Fighting Illini winning 78-70 over Nicholls State. Purdue was only a little better, shooting 6-for-19 in a 79-57 win over Wisconsin-Green Bay. Nebraska was worse in coach Fred Hoiberg’s debut, shooting 6-for-23 in a 66-47 loss at home to Cal-Riverside. Rutgers snuck past Bryant, 73-71, despite missing 18 of 21 from long range.

Asked if the poor shooting is because of the new 3-point line being pushed out 16¾ inches to the international distance of 22 feet, 1¾ inches, Turgeon said: “I think it’s early. I do think the line is going to make a difference. It’s a [more than a] foot further back.

“There’s a lot of average shooters that [can’t make them with consistency]. The old line, I thought a lot of guys could make it. I thought it was a layup for good shooters. It makes a difference as the game goes on. I think we’ll adjust. But I do think the percentages will go down.”

Former longtime Maryland coach and Naismith Hall of Famer Gary Williams has seen this happen before, first when the 3-point line was introduced throughout college basketball at 19 feet, 9 inches for the 1986-87 season and then pushed out a foot in 2008-09.

“This year it looks like a tougher shot so far,” Williams said in a telephone interview Friday. “Whether that’s a mental thing, a physical thing. Obviously, the further out you go, the harder it is to shoot the ball. I like that it’s [the same as] the international line. It shouldn’t be like a 2-pointer.”

Early on, it was coaches like Williams playing a more traditional inside-out game offensively who were hesitant to let their teams take 3-pointers. But the growth of analytics, as well as the reliance on 3-point shooting in the NBA, has changed the way the college game is played.

“A lot of coaches had come in basketball playing and coaching where the idea was to get the ball as close to the basket as possible,” Williams said. “Somebody a little younger like [Rick] Pitino, saw the analytics shooting 3s better than most people.

Advertisement

“Back then, referees were still calling quite a few fouls, and if you could get the ball inside, you were concerned with getting the other team in foul trouble. If you shoot a lot of 3s, you basically don’t get the other team in foul trouble. When you push the line back, the better shooters are going to show up.”

Ayala, who surprised even Turgeon last season with his ability to hit 3-pointers on a consistent basis, said Friday that when he’s in the game, he doesn’t “even think about the line” being more than a foot further out."

Having missed five of six against Holy Cross — he missed his first five in Maryland’s first three games as a freshman last season before heating up — Ayala attributed his early struggles to something that everything from athletes to actors go through when the lights come on.

“I think it was just first game jitters,” he said. "Our sophomores we still get those [nerves] playing in a [season’s first] live game. I think we’ll be better next game.”

NOTES: Turgeon said that junior guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph), who came off the bench to give his slow-starting team a spark in a 15-point, four-assist, three-steal performance in the opener, will start against Rhode Island. Turgeon said that one other player who started on the bench Tuesday will also be in the starting lineup Friday, presumably either one of two freshmen, forward Donta Scott or center Makhi Mitchell.

Rhode Island@No. 7 Maryland

Saturday, 9 p.m.

Video: Fox Sports 1

Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement