Analyzing Maryland's win over Lafayette

Welcome back to Morning Shootaround, which will be 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 night’s game and what the Terps will be working on at practice looking ahead to their next game.

Final score: Maryland 83, Lafayette 74 @ Comcast Center Tuesday night

3-point shots

It seems only fitting to start this segment of the blog with 3-pointers. What were those Lafayette shooters doing, trying out for the part of Bobby Plump for a recast of “Hoosiers” – or for the Grinnell College basketball team to replace Jack Taylor, who replaced Griffin Lentsch as a 3-point shooting machine?

Playing again without leading scorer Dan Trist, a 6-9 sophomore from Australia, the Leopards came out firing early and often from 3-point range. Lafayette, which came into College Park shooting a respectable but otherwise unremarkable 38.9 percent on 3s (37 of 95) wound up making 15 of 32. That, along Maryland’s inability to knock down many shots against its opponent’s zone defense, kept the game close and Turgeon, if not nervous, at least concerned.

“They made 15 in the last game too, they’re pretty good shooters,” Turgeon said. “I think our lack of rebounding in the second half enabled them to make more 3s in the second half. They made a couple off turnovers, they made one off our press. And they made some tough ones, too. Give them credit. They were good. Last year I don’t know if we could have come out with a win. We were pretty comfortable tonight.”

When WTOP radio reporter Craig Heist ended Turgeon’s press conference by mentioning Taylor’s 138-point performance to set the NCAA single-game scoring record and telling Turgeon that the Grinnell guard took 102 shots (actually hitting 51 of 107, including 27 of 71 on 3s), the second-year Maryland coach smiled. Visions of Terrell Stoglin must have been dancing in his head.

“He has very unselfish teammates,” Turgeon said with a chuckle. “Can you imagine being those other four guys on the floor? I hope they won. Did they win?”

Told Taylor’s team won, Turgeon smirked. “Well, good for him,” he said.

There’s no truth that the Terps are going to bring Taylor – or Lafayette’s Seth Hinrichs, who scored 18 of his game-high 20 points on 3s – into Comcast Center to teach the Terps how to shoot from long-range. Maryland missed 13 of 15, though a late 3 by Pe’Shon Howard helped keep the Leonards from completing a comeback after cutting a 17-point Maryland lead with 5:21 left to eight, 73-65.

Asked about his team’s 3-point shooting, now 18 of 58 for the season, Turgeon said, “Pe’Shon’s not looking to shoot. He shot one and he made it. So he’s a guy [who can make 3s]. Nick [Faust] can make them. He proved that last year. As long as he’s taking good ones, he can make them. I think Dez [Wells] can make 3s. I think Jake Layman can make 3s. I think Seth Allen can make 3s. Plus Logan [Aronhalt]. We’ve got good shooters, [but] it just wasn’t our night. But we were smart enough to get the ball inside. I have confidence in a lot of guys as long as it’s a good shot.”

* * *

What Maryland was able to do, and what the Terps have done consistently this season, is finish around the basket. Despite missing so many 3s, Maryland still finished 29 of 56 from the field after going 14 of 33 in the first half. After James Padgett helped the Terps build a 10-point halftime lead despite Alex Len taking only two shots and scoring three points before intermission, Howard immediately went to his 7-1 sophomore center for a lob dunk to start the second half.

Len wound up leading five players in double-figures with 16, while Padgett had another solid game with 14 and Faust scored most of his 13 points by driving the ball to the basket.

I asked Turgeon after the game whether Len was getting better position to score or were the Terps more patient in running their halfcourt sets.

“I don’t know for sure, but I do think we made a conscious effort [to get the ball inside]. I do think their defense got a little bit tired. I thought their zone was great in the first half. I thought we held the ball a little too long on the perimeter and we were afraid to make passes,” Turgeon said. “We got our high-low game going. We ran a play for Alex to start the second half. We just talked about, ‘We’ve got to get Alex going, we can’t let this zone stop Alex.’ I think the guys did a good zone looking for him.”

*  *  *

One thing reporters covering Turgeon appreciate about him is his honesty. Though many coaches will take a hit after their teams lose by saying they got outcoached, few actually believe it. Turgeon said that Lafayette was “well coached” by Fran O’Hanlon, who certainly had his team prepared to play Maryland better than it was against Kentucky (101-49) after losing Trist with a sprained foot that day.

Turgeon admitted that his halftime speech was not exactly prescient.

“What I told them was, ‘Guys, we’re 2-for-12 (shooting 3s) and we’ve missed eight free throws and we got 40 points and we’re up 10 and I don’t know if Lafayette can play any better,” Turgeon recalled. “And I said, ‘I bet we start making some jump shots.’ so I was wrong. We didn’t.”

Turgeon blamed himself for his team blowing more than half of that big lead (which had been as many as 19) because he subbed out his complete starting team for his second unit, something that he learned from Roy Williams and Larry Brown, who learned it from Dean Smith, who I’m sure learned it from Phog Allen, who might have learned it from James Naismith himself. (Turgeon, who played and coached under Brown, has pictures of all of them adorning a wall in his office.)

It was the second time Turgeon did it Tuesday night. He did it early in the game and the second unit – made up of freshmen forwards Charles Mitchell and Jake Layman, freshman center Shaquille Cleare, freshman guard Seth Allen and senior transfer Logan Aronhalt – went on a little mini-run before he subbed them out.

“I think that one substitution really hurt us. I learned a little bit about myself and how to coach this team as we go forward,” Turgeon said. 

BONUS POINTS

Shortly after subbing in Mitchell and Cleare for the first time, Maryland’s modern-day Bruise Brothers (for those too young to remember Jeff Ruland and Rick Mahorn of the old Bullets) had their shots blocked by smaller, quicker Leopards. Lafayette finished with five blocked shots to three for the Terps, which could be the first time a Patriot League team outblocked an ACC team.

Told of the five blocks, Turgeon said, “Did they?”

While it might not have impacted the Terps against Lafayette, it could be a factor against bigger, stronger competition such as the kind Maryland will face in the ACC.

“I think a couple of our guys who get their shots blocked aren’t explosive enough when they gather the ball,” Turgeon said. “It’s disappointing that we have these big strong guys and we’re not finishing [easy shots], but we finished a lot of those too and got fouled. Give them credit. Maybe they’re good shot blockers.”

The Leopards had blocked 11 shots coming in, though none against Kentucky.

LOOKING AHEAD

Turgeon said on his radio show Monday night that he planned to give the team off on Thanksgiving, something he has never done in the past.  Maryland (3-1) plays Georgia Southern (1-2), which beat a team called Webber International.   

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