Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon has consistently expressed confidence that his team can return to top form on defense, but hasn’t provided as much belief in the Terps fixing their shooting woes.
While Turgeon continued to express his confidence in the team’s ability to defend, he wouldn’t go so far in his assessment of his team’s shooting.
“I say this after every game. We haven’t made shots all year,” Turgeon said. “We’re shooting 40% in the league [which ranks second-worst in the Big Ten] and we’re [tied for first place in the league] ... Tonight we let it affect our transition defense.”
This late in the season, Turgeon is well aware of what his team is and what his team isn’t: a typically staunch defensive group that struggles to hit outside shots. Maryland is making 30.9% of its 3-pointers, which ranks 296th out 350 NCAA Division I schools.
Poor shooting and shoddy defense is the quickest way to an exit in the NCAA tournament. Three-point shooting in postseason play can be fickle as it is, but the Terps will need to gain some type of offensive rhythm, especially if its defense doesn’t return to its typical level.
Anthony Cowan Jr.'s rebound is a good sign before Senior Day, but the Terps need more from their other guards.
When Cowan hit a 3-pointer in the first half of Tuesday’s loss, it marked his first made 3 in two weeks. Cowan had a team-high 19 points on 6-for-13 shooting but looked much more comfortable getting in the lane and finding shots.
He also continued to affect the game in other aspects, recording three assists and drawing a charge in the first half.
“I definitely felt comfortable,” Cowan said. “My teammates got me some great looks. I was able to hit a few shots. I’m still off.”
While Cowan was able to get in a bit of a groove, his backcourt mates Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins didn’t fare as well.
Ayala shot 3-for-8 from the field and 2-for-6 on 3-pointers, as he continues to struggle to replicate his 40% clip from deep as a freshman. Wiggins played just 14 minutes Tuesday, picking up two quick fouls early in the first half. Wiggins shot 2-of-9 from the field and missed all four of his 3-point attempts.
If Maryland gets quality production from Cowan and sophomore forward Jalen Smith, it can make due if one of its sophomore guards has an off-day. But if both go cold, it puts added pressure on the Terps’ two stars, who have to be great for their team amid middling depth.
Maryland will get bench production by committee for the rest of the season.
Sticking with his efforts to get meaningful minutes outside of his top six players, Turgeon continued to scour his bench for options.
Turgeon has complimented the play of freshman guard Hakim Hart and sophomore guard Ricky Lindo Jr. in recent games. On Tuesday, Serrel Smith Jr. played for the first time since Feb. 23 against Ohio State.
While Smith didn’t make a huge dent in the box score, recording six points in 11 minutes that included late garbage time, the St. Petersburg, Florida, native was locked in on defense, even when his shots weren’t falling.
At this point in the season, Turgeon will roll the dice on his top six and hope one or two players from his bench can spell his starters for a few good minutes every game.
When speaking Monday about Hart’s play, Turgeon said: “He knows the pressure’s not on him to do a lot. He’s just got to go out there and give us some good minutes. The key is if he goes in and we’re up six and we stay up six.”
The same can be said for Serrel Smith, Lindo and even Joshua Tomaic, who will all be candidates to play important minutes in the postseason.