After blowout, Terps' Turgeon could make big change to lineup with smallest player

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Maryland's Dez Wells listens as head coach Mark Turgeon gives instructions during Wednesday's at Ohio State. Wells struggled at point guard during the loss, and could move off the ball for Sunday's game against George Washington.

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has seemed to take a different approach to his starting lineup this season than he did during his first two years at Maryland.

He has tinkered less, and during the Terps' recent four-game winning streak appeared to settle on the same group.


Funny what a one-sided defeat does to shake things up a little. On Sunday, it could mean putting the team's smallest player, and the one with arguably the biggest motor, in the starting lineup.

Along with regular starters Dez Wells, Jake Layman and Shaquille Cleare, junior point guard Varun Ram (River Hill) likely will start when Maryland (5-3) plays George Washington (7-1) in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center.


"I started him in the second half against Ohio State at Ohio State, so I'm obviously not afraid to play Varun," Turgeon said after practice Saturday. "He's a good defender, too. He's our most complete point guard right now.

"I think the guys believe in him. I think the coaching staff believes in him. That said, I think [freshman] Roddy [Peters] has a tremendous upside, so you got to make sure both are playing with confidence and helping our team."

Asked whether he was ready to make his first start since playing at Division III Trinity (Conn.) College, the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Ram said: "Whatever this team needs me to do, I feel like I have the ability to do. If that's run the offense, run the team, I think I've been preparing myself for his opportunity."

For a team coming off a worse-than-it-looked 76-60 loss Wednesday at No. 5 Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten challenge, the move is designed to put Wells back on the wing, where he scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, and provide the team with a little more stability in its ball handling.

"I think Dez will play both" point guard and on the wing, Turgeon said. "Late in the game, [if] it's close, I think Dez will be at the point. But I've got to get him off the ball some. I'm going to have a plan, but it may go by the wayside tomorrow."

Turgeon said he hasn't completely decided on his starting lineup against the Colonials, who beat then-No. 20 Creighton last Sunday and who also defeated Miami last month.

Based on defensive effort in the loss to the Buckeyes, Cleare seemingly will remain in the starting lineup at center while sophomore Charles Mitchell will again come off the bench as an offensive spark.

Cleare "did a great job on Amir Williams, who's a heck of a player. That kid had one rebound," Turgeon said of the Ohio State center. "Shaq hit him; he hit him hard a lot on box-outs. I think his physicality helped us in that game."


Turgeon said that "if we were to base it on offense, Charles would be a starter for us, but we don't just base it offense."

Mitchell knows he has to improve defensively.

"My effort offensively is different than my effort defensively. I feel like I have to give more on the defensive side than the offensive side," Mitchell said. "When I was watching film, my lack of defensive presence was a big problem. If I had the same motor at the defensive end as the offense end, we'd be a better team."

With Wells, Layman, Cleare and possibly Ram in the starting lineup, the last starting position likely will fall to either junior guard Nick Faust (City) or junior forward Evan Smotrycz.

After playing well in spurts during the team's three-game championship run at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Faust reverted to his early-season habit of taking quick shots and turning the ball over. After picking up two early fouls Wednesday, Faust finished 2-for-9 from the field, including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, with two turnovers in 24 minutes.

"He had a bad night," Turgeon said. "I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the arena we were playing in. I thought we all got a little bit selfish at times because we were all trying to do it ourselves instead of doing it as a team. Nick's been good, he just had a step back. I expect him to play well tomorrow."


Turgeon said his players were not the only ones to have a bad night against the Buckeyes.

"The worst thing is that we didn't really compete in the second half as a coach, as a team," Turgeon said. "Hopefully, we don't do that again. Do we change everything? Absolutely not. You try to figure some things out and make your team better."