By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun
3:00 AM AKST, December 30, 2012
Welcome back to Morning Shootaround, a regular feature this season the day after Maryland basketball games. While we can’t bring you into the Terps’ locker room after games – reporters haven’t been allowed in there since the last couple of years under Gary Williams – we will recap what was said in the press conference afterward by Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and his players. We will give some of our own insight into what transpired on the court during the previous day’s game and what the Terps will be working on at practice looking ahead to their next game.
Maryland 79, Delaware State 50, Saturday at Comcast Center
If Mark Turgeon has shown anything in a little over a season in College Park, it is that he is tough to please. He is an old-school perfectionist, just like mentor Larry Brown, who always talks about playing “the right way.” But he is a little more flexible than Brown in that he also lets a new generation -- a generation removed from his own -- play their way as well.
It is why you can see this season’s Maryland team starting to come together.
There is a nice mix of more fundamentally-sound players such as Alex Len, Logan Aronhalt and James Padgett with new-age ballers like Nick Faust, Charles Mitchell, Seth Allen and Pe’Shon Howard – as well as those like Dez Wells, Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman who seem to operate in either world depending on the possession.
Maryland’s most recent performance Saturday was one of its best of what is now an 11-1 season. It was a clear example of playing smart, efficient basketball against the slow-it-down zone defense Delaware State used the entire game. The Terps took care of the ball (11 turnovers), pounded it inside most of the game and came away with their 11th straight win.
And Turgeon was obviously pleased, as happy as he has seemed all season, maybe since he came to Maryland.
“I thought we played really well. We shared the ball well, we executed well, the only thing we didn’t do well was rebound (a 36-30 edge), which was a little disappointing,” Turgeon said in starting off his post-game news conference. “Our freshmen were great, our bench was great. Guys have been practicing well and it showed.”
Start the presses
Maryland changed up some things defensively against Delaware State because of the way the third MEAC team the Terps have played this season was trying to slow down the game. Turgeon went to a zone for a handful of possessions in the first half and did a lot of pressing in order to speed up the game and turn over Delaware State.
“It was so boring,” Turgeon said of his opponent’s style.
Turgeon certainly expected Delaware State coach Greg Jackson to play the way he did. It worked for awhile, as the Hornets hit enough shots to start the game and the Terps were a little too sloppy that the score stayed close for the first 10 minutes. The Terps went on a 17-2 run and wound up leading at halftime by 18, 40-22.
“He’s got to play that way. They’ve got to play so many of these games. He’s just trying to do what’s best for his program,” Turgeon said of Jackson. “We don’t practice a lot of pressing after makes, [but] we did a pretty good job with it. By us not pressing at the start, I thought we got a couple of easy baskets. We just tried to up the tempo.”
While the Terps were successful in doing it, I thought it raised some questions about using both tactics during the ACC season with the same element of surprise. Maryland has ranked near the bottom of Division I in steals since Turgeon took over for Gary Williams, in large part because he didn’t have the horses at the back end to defend the basket should the opposing team break the press.
But with Len, Mitchell and Cleare, and even the blue-collar Padgett, it might be something for Turgeon to integrate more into the game plan in the week left before the ACC schedule begins. I think he has enough athletes with length, athleticism and quick hands – Wells, in particular, has really quick hands – that pressing could help the Terps, especially when they have trouble shooting.
Dez used to be a Duke fan
With a lot of talk starting to focus on ACC play, I asked Wells about how big a deal it is for him to be playing in a conference he grew up watching in Raleigh, N.C., after playing his freshman year in the Atlantic 10 at Xavier.
Wells is not exactly the sentimental type.
“It’s going to be different, because the A-10 is a lot more physical than the ACC is, but you approach every game the same way, regardless of who you’re playing or how you’re playing in recent memory ” said Wells, whose physical style should make him difficult to guard.
“Basketball is basketball and you’ve got to look the person you’re guarding in the eye because they’re going to try to kill you. You got to be ready for it for every game. They’re not going to take any slack because of who you are or who you think you are.”
Wells said that he grew up rooting for the Blue Devils, though he lived close to the North Carolina State campus. Part of it was his mother’s influence and the fact that she liked Duke point guard Jason Williams.
“He was so good,” Wells said. “I think Kyrie [Irving, now with the Cleveland Cavaliers] was better than him at Duke, but [Williams] was so good.”
Asked if he rooted against Maryland back then, Wells said, “I don’t even remember them playing Maryland that much.”
No memory of the Blue Devils erasing Maryland’s 10-point lead at Cole Field House in the final minute and winning in overtime in 2000-01? No memory of the phantom fifth foul on Lonny Baxter in the national semifinals later that season? No memory of Juan Dixon sticking it to the Blue Devils numerous times at Cameron?
“I was really young,” Wells said. “I remember certain clips of certain games, but I don’t remember too much of certain games and what Jason Williams did. I remember my mom talking about [Williams] a lot. I was about 8 years old and I was thinking about playing outside.”
Sounds like my now 20-year old who has a hat autographed by every member of the 2001-02 team but only remembers eating Dip-n-Dots at the Georgia Dome during the championship game.
Of all the freshmen this season, forward Jake Layman has been the most perplexing. But after looking out of sync and maybe in over his head, the 6-8 forward from outside Boston looked pretty good Saturday.
I will believe it more when I see Layman do the same things he did against Delaware State to an ACC team, but I can finally see him being a spark off the bench for the Terps as the season goes on because he’s certainly more skilled than all of the other forwards on the team.
I was starting to wonder if Layman had a role on this year’s team, and what kind of future he had in College Park with Evan Smotrycz, who is a bigger, more developed version of Layman if not as athletic, sitting out after transferring from Michigan.
Another couple of performances like the one he had against Delaware State should be enough to solidify his minutes for awhile. Turgeon has been doing everything to give Layman a chance, and it seemed like the light went on.
The IUPUI Jaguars (6-11) made the NCAA Tournament a decade ago, but haven’t done much since. The school most Midwesterners refer to as Ooey-pooey (it’s actually Indiana University Purdue University at Indiananapolis) has fallen in the shadows of Butler and of course Indiana. Why they are coming to Maryland to celebrate New Year’s makes absolutely no sense except for a nice payday. I think one of Turgeon’s New Year’s Resolutions should be playing a few more locals next year like Loyola and Towson – with less guarantee money going out of Maryland’s financially strapped athletic department and more money staying in the state. Just a thought.