Going into the 2017-18 season, Mark Turgeon talked about the possibility of having his deepest team in his seven years at Maryland.
Now he hopes to have the most resilient.
Season-ending injuries to forwards Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender have left the Terps with only nine healthy scholarship players and 12 on the roster going into Tuesday’s game against Penn State at Xfinity Center.
Along with Jackson, who is out with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and Bender, who tore the meniscus in his right knee Friday against UMBC, Maryland also lost walk-on Andrew Terrell at practice Thursday with torn ligaments in his right ankle.
Turgeon said the mood has been mixed at practice the past two days.
“I think we feel bad for Justin and Ivan and Andrew. You look over and you have two guys on crutches and another guy who’s going to have surgery,” Turgeon said during a teleconference Monday. “The guys have worked hard. We’ve kind of had to reinvent ourselves a little bit. You lose two [power forwards], it makes things difficult. The mood’s been good, the attitude’s been good.”
Turgeon said it’s too soon to tell how the Terps will react to the loss of Jackson, the team’s leading rebounder, as well as Bender, a valuable reserve who was starting to play some of his best basketball.
“We hope guys who are going to get more opportunities are ready for it, excited about it,” Turgeon said. “You don’t need 13 players to have a good team, you just need seven or eight who are willing and will do what they have to do.”
While Maryland had been without Jackson for four games and freshman center Bruno Fernando for two games with a sprained ankle, as well as senior center Michal Cekovsky and redshirt junior guard Dion Wiley for a variety of maladies, the competition was not exactly tough.
“We were playing lesser opponents, so things didn’t show up as much. Now you’re playing the big boys,” Turgeon said.
With a game at new No. 1 Michigan State looming Thursday, the Terps can ill afford to look past the Nittany Lions, as they might’ve done last season when losing in State College, Pa. Turgeon knows Penn State (11-4, 1-1) is even better this season.
“They’ve always been right there,” Turgeon said. “Even though they weren’t winning as many games, they were always in games, then they stepped up and had a really good recruiting class [in 2016].
“Then guys matured and now they’re winning those games. That’s really the difference. Their talent level is — besides Michigan State — as good as anybody in the league.”
While Turgeon has often used past poor performances against particular teams as motivation, this year is different after what transpired last week.
“It hasn’t come up. We’ve got so much on our plate, trying to get us so we can be efficient tomorrow night,” Turgeon said of last year’s loss to Penn State. “We have a ton of respect for them, but we haven’t talked about last year’s game at all.”
Turgeon is still trying to figure out how he will go ahead with inexperienced redshirt freshman Joshua Tomaic as his only healthy power forward. Tomaic, who sat out last season, has played a total of just 66 minutes over nine games, including only one against UMBC.
“We’re going to have to use Josh moving forward. How much, I don’t know,” Turgeon said. “The other night was a small team — they were hard to guard. Ivan was having maybe his best back-to-back games of his career [before getting hurt]. I was able to go small.
“Moving forward, we’re going to play against bigger, stronger teams, so Josh can be more of a part of it. We’ll see. He’ll get his opportunities. How well he handles it determines how many minutes he’s going to play. We all have a lot of confidence in him. He’s worked hard.”
Though Maryland has had its share of injuries since Turgeon came in, losing two players at the same position as league play restarts presents a challenge he and the Terps haven’t faced. It’s perhaps one of the biggest challenges Turgeon has faced in 20 seasons as a head coach.
“What’s unique about it is that Ivan and Justin both play [power forward],” Turgeon said. “The timing of it is what makes it a little more difficult. We kind of stumbled through the whole Christmas break with injuries and sickness and different things going on. We're just trying to find a rhythm.”