Despite long winning streak, Terps have flaws they need to fix

Maryland has won six games in a row, including four on the road heading into Tuesday's matchup at Ohio State.

As the Big Ten victories pile up for the Maryland men's basketball team — six straight, including four on the road — coach Mark Turgeon continues to tinker with the Terps.

The starting lineup remains the same for No. 17 Maryland (19-2, 7-1) going into Tuesday's game at Ohio State (13-9, 3-6), and the bench rotation is beginning to settle, but the Terps are searching for consistency, which, they hope will lead to less need for second-half comebacks.

While the Terps have seemingly perfected the formula for winning tight games coming from behind — Saturday's 85-78 win at Minnesota was the 11th time this season that Maryland has stormed back to win — Turgeon and his players know that the imperfections could eventually catch up with them.

It's easier for Turgeon to correct those mistakes when the team is winning, rather than when it's losing.

"We're all in a better mood when you win, and you could learn from things," Turgeon said. "We watched a lot of film last night from our Minnesota game and we made a lot of mistakes in that game, defensively, that we can correct. …It's always easier when you win because when you lose they think it's punishment rather than making our team better."

The Terps have certainly improved in a number of areas since the first month of the season, especially with their 3-point shooting. Yet there are still a number of deficiencies that need to be fixed as the second half of the Big Ten schedule begins later this week.

REBOUNDING: The Terps were outrebounded by 10 at Williams Arena on Saturday, including 14-8 on offensive boards. It marked the third straight game, the fifth time in the Big Ten so far and the 12th time total Maryland has been outrebounded this season.

Asked Monday about his team's rebounding struggles, Turgeon said, "We talk about rebounding all the time; they probably hear it in their sleep. We have to become a better box-out team. The one thing we did better the other day, we boxed out better on the free throws. That was a step in the right direction."

Turgeon said that at halftime of Saturday's game, when Maryland trailed 33-26, assistant coach Cliff Warren made note of the fact that the Terps' big men had only a handful of rebounds.

"We can't make it a jumping contest," Turgeon said. "It's got to be physical box outs and create space and go get it."

Though the rebounding problems are more understandable than a year ago, given that Turgeon is often playing three and sometimes four guards, it's still problematic. While freshman forward Justin Jackson played his part against the Golden Gophers with 10 rebounds, the team's four other forwards and centers combined for just seven.

It was the same number junior guard Melo Trimble pulled down at Minnesota.

FREE-THROW SHOOTING: The Terps have been hot from 3-point range in Big Ten games — going 11-of-18 at Minnesota put Maryland at a conference-best 43.6 percent during league play — but the free-throw shooting has been spotty.

Maryland ranks 10th in the Big Ten from the foul line (65.8 percent). The Terps made just 14 of 22 against the Gophers, but hit 10 of their last 13 in the final 3:46 to take control. Throughout the winning streak the Terps have made just enough at the end to hold leads.

"It's something we work on every day in practice, something Coach Turgeon always stresses with us," freshman Kevin Huerter said. "Free throws, as much as it is physical, I think it's a big mental thing. Just confidence, seeing the ball go in in practice."

SLOW STARTS: While this, like the rebounding, is not as big of a problem as it was at times last season, having lulls either right at the start or during part of each half could become an issue for Maryland as the competition gets tougher down the stretch.

"I think we get a little comfortable with the lead sometimes," Trimble said. "That's something we need to work on, continue to attack when we're leading. Minnesota went on that run, but we were able to refocus and we were able to pull off the win. ...We need to clear that up."

The Terps were unable to take control of the game at home against Rutgers last Tuesday until early in the second half. Against Minnesota, Maryland got off decently, taking an 8-4 lead into the first television timeout. The Gophers then went on a 19-1 run to take a 12-point lead.

"We controlled the Michigan game for the most part, and there was another road game [at Iowa] that I think we controlled," Turgeon said. "The good thing is that we were 8-4 at the first timeout. Because we got off that good start, the run didn't hurt us as much as it could. If the score had been tied, we would have been done."

Notes: Trimble was named to the Bob Cousy Award Top 10 Watch List on Monday. The award is given annually to the country's top college point guard. …For the second straight game, redshirt sophomore guard Dion Wiley will not accompany the team on the road because of a nagging back injury.

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
81°