College Park — Maryland coach Mark Turgeon gave his team two days off after Sunday’s overtime win at Illinois, in large part because the Terps had squeezed their first 10 games of the 2017-2018 season into a 23-day window.
One day of preparation might have been all Maryland needed Thursday night against Ohio, though Turgeon conceded after his team’s 25-point win that he’s looking forward to the hours of practice time the Terps will get before Big Ten play resumes Jan. 2 against Penn State.
That’s where Turgeon’s team will need to get better, given the level of competition is expected to go down if the Kenpom.com ratings are a true indication. At No. 157, the Bobcats are the highest-rated team the Terps will face the rest of the month.
Here are some observations and opinions from Maryland’s 87-62 win over Ohio:
If it walks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it is a duck.
Turgeon tried to downplay the 25 turnovers his team made in its win in Champaign, stating that the Terps are not going to see the kind of defense the Illini played in the second half to overcome a 22-point deficit before handing the Terps a second life in overtime.
That might not exactly be the case, since Maryland’s next road game will be at Michigan State on Jan. 4.
Tom Izzo’s defensive style isn’t exactly the same as Brad Underwood’s team plays at Illinois, but the Spartans lead the Big Ten with a 32.2 percent field goal defense and are averaging a league-best 7.9 shots a game.
Even Maryland fans are getting frustrated with Maryland’s turnovers. The Terps, who came into Thursday averaging 17 a game, increased their average with 19 against the Bobcats. One fan had seen enough after a near-turnover on a botched sideline exchange.
After possession was ruled in favor of the Terps, a fan sitting behind press row was heard to yell, “Can you guys stop turning the ball over?”
Asked afterward about the turnover problem, Turgeon seemed to feel the fan’s pain.
“I don’t want to talk about it, but man, some of our turnovers are just comical,” he said. “Like, ‘Did that really just happen?’ Hopefully we’re getting it all out of the way and when the New Year hits, it changes. Some of them are just mind-boggling.”
Fernando’s ankle injury will force Turgeon to use other big men.
Though the sprained ankle Bruno Fernando suffered against Ohio will likely keep the 6-foot-10 Angolan out of competition until the end of the month or perhaps until the Penn State game, it gives more playing time to the team’s other frontcourt players.
The key thing will be using senior center Michal Cekovsky, who had season highs of 15 points and eight rebounds against the Bobcats, enough to get the 7-foot-1 Slovakian in great shape for the Big Ten schedule without putting him in harm’s way against smaller teams.
A year ago, the Terps went into their Big Ten opener against Illinois without Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd. (Interestingly, Maryland’s 25-point win over Illinois was the largest margin of victory in league play.).
Turgeon has redshirt junior Ivan Bender and graduate transfer Sean Obi to back up Cekovsky.
“Sean did great with his minutes tonight [with six points, three rebounds in five minutes]. Sean will get some minutes,” Turgeon said. ”We won a lot of games with Ivan Bender at [center] last year, Ivan will get some minutes too, which he deserves.”
Turgeon said he had not looked at the tape for Saturday’s game against Gardner-Webb. He did know a little about Division III Catholic, which visits Tuesday.
“I’m sure Catholic doesn’t have a lot of 7-footers running around,” Turgeon said. “There'll be a lot of little guys out there running around. It’s an opportunity for people and I thought the guys handled those opportunities tonight really well.”
Though Bender has proven to be a productive backup, especially when the Terps are spreading the floor, Obi’s physicality and toughness, as well as his ability to get rebounds and putbacks, might be better suited for Big Ten playing time whether or not Fernando’s ankle injury lingers.
Morsell’s first start should not be his last.
Freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) got his first start Thursday as part of a lineup that featured four guards alongside Cekovsky.
While some of it had to do with sophomore forward Justin Jackson not finishing practice Wednesday due to illness — he wound up playing 19 minutes off the bench — Morsell could continue as a starter.
Though his turnovers have been the biggest issue to date, with three against Ohio giving him 32 for the season, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound freshman gives the Terps a dimension they lack at both ends.
His ability to defend on the perimeter doesn’t force Turgeon into playing the 6-foot, 170-pound Anthony Cowan Jr. against bigger, stronger guards, as often happened last season.
Morsell is also the most athletic player on a team that is still lacking in that area. Because of it, Morsell can score around the basket better than just about anyone aside from Fernando.
Turgeon is extremely loyal to his upperclassmen, so he will continue to give redshirt junior Dion Wiley and senior Jared Nickens opportunities to help the team.
While Wiley is starting to do other things aside from hitting 3-pointers, Nickens isn’t. His six-minute stint against Ohio could be an indication of his role being even further diminished, as Morsell’s role grows.