Getting the confidence level of a young college basketball team back up quickly after a loss is a tricky proposition, but Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has done it successfully after both losses the Terps have suffered this season.
While Maryland took a lot of positives out of its five-point defeat at home to then-No. 4 Virginia and were able to respond three days later with a victory over Penn State in the Big Ten opener, the Terps did it again Saturday with a 55-41 win over Loyola Chicago — with three starters back from last year’s Final Four team — in the Charm City College Classic at Royal Farms Arena two days after a 62-60 loss at Purdue.
If the loss to the Cavaliers was a missed opportunity, the defeat at Mackey Arena was more of a blown chance, and perhaps a more difficult game from which to recover quickly in a shorter period.
“I keep saying I really like this team,” Turgeon said. “They’re resilient. They’re young. Sometimes with youth, they don’t know any different. A lot of times, 18-year-olds are worrying about where their next meal is coming from, not so much a game they lost. Coaches take it harder.
“These guys continue to show me something. We weren’t great offensively tonight, but we had really good shots and we moved the ball better. Really what cost us the game the other night was our lack of ball movement late in the game. I think our ball movement was better. We really grew up in the last 48 hours.”
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game in Baltimore:
1. Until the Terps start shooting the ball better from the outside, defense will have to carry them.
When Turgeon came to Maryland from Texas A&M eight years ago, his reputation was more about the defense his teams played both there and at Wichita State than the offense he ran. The same has been true for most of his tenure in College Park.
The Terps have not shot the ball well from 3-point range for most of the season, ranking ahead of only Penn State in the Big Ten at 32.1 percent. Given that they are are fourth in the conference in overall field goal percentage at .484, the Terps are decidedly better shooting from inside.
That said, this year’s team has the potential to be the best defensive team Turgeon has had at Maryland. Among the top eight players in the rotation, there are no defensive liabilities. Maryland’s defense kept the game close at Purdue.
The Terps held the Ramblers to 32.7 percent shooting Saturday — the lowest number for an opponent this season — and blocked 13 of Loyola Chicago’s 49 shots, matching the most for a Maryland team under Turgeon.
It was also the fewest number of points scored against Maryland in Turgeon’s eight years.
“I think it was definitely pretty impressive on defense,” junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. said. “I don’t think it was just this game. I also thought we defended very well last game. That’s just harping on it in practice that we can be a pretty good defensive team and I think we’re kind of showing that a little bit.”
2. Bruno Fernando needs to think more about expanding his offensive game.
If the past two games showed anything about how much the 6-foot-10 Angolan has improved, it’s in his ability to consistently knock down midrange jumpers and an occasional 3-pointer. He did it against both Purdue and Loyola Chicago.
Though it will obviously help his NBA stock to prove to scouts that he is more than just an old school back-to-the-basket center, which is becoming something of a dinosaur in this new age of basketball, it will help the Terps as well.
With both Fernando and Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) demonstrating some range on their jump shot and being given at least a yellow light by Turgeon to shoot from distance, defenses will have to play them more honestly.
Turgeon has struggled to keep his two big men on the court at the same time because of fouls or an inablity to defend opponents with four perimeter shooters, but a high-low arrangement might be a way to do it.
Not that Fernando is suddenly going to turn into Robert Carter Jr., who was given too much of a green light as a redshirt junior three years ago and proceeded to prove to NBA scouts that he wasn’t a good enough 3-point shooter for them to overlook other deficiencies.
“I’m not going out there to showcase anything,” Fernando said Saturday. “I do whatever it takes to help my team win. If it staying in the post and setting screens, just getting the ball down low, that’s what I’m doing.
“We got a lot of guys that can score the ball from the outside, so why would I step out and try to do the things that I’m not supposed to? Whenever they [opponents] give me the chance to take the shot, I’ll take the shot.”
3. Ricky Lindo Jr. needs more playing time.
One of the benefits to having both Fernando and Smith in foul trouble Saturday was the fact that Turgeon was forced to use the skinny 6-8 freshman for his longest stint — 24 minutes — of the season.
Lindo hit his only shot — a long jumper from the wing — and grabbed five rebounds. He played very solid defense and even blocked a shot. His performance against Loyola came on the heels of another respectable, if much shorter, effort at Purdue.
It’s clear that Lindo, who signed with the Terps in August rather than going for post-graduate year in prep school, has moved ahead of both redshirt senior Ivan Bender and redshirt sophomore Joshua Tomaic in the rotation.
Turgeon needs to get Lindo in the game more on a regular basis. He is one of the most active players around the basket defensively, seems to understand the constant switching that is required and rarely gets rushed on offense.