Ten down, two to go.
A non-conference schedule that Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has said in hindsight was admittedly too soft nears its conclusion as the Terps inch closer to beginning their Atlantic Coast Conference season in another week.
With 10 straight wins since opening the 2012-13 season with a three-point loss to then No. 3 Kentucky, Maryland (10-1) plays its third Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponent when it hosts Delaware State (5-7) Saturday at Comcast Center at 12:30 p.m.
Coming off an eight-day break that followed one of their more competitive games — a 76-69 win over Stony Brook — the Terps will try to improve on some of their inconsistencies before opening their ACC schedule Jan. 5 at home against Virginia Tech.
Among the post-Christmas list of what Turgeon wants his young team to work on:
•Showing an ability to play with a lead against a smaller, undersized opponent. Maryland built an early 13-point lead over Stony Brook on Dec. 21, then stretched a nine-point halftime lead to 20 early in the second half before the more experienced Sea Wolves cut it down to two, 71-69, with 34 seconds remaining.
Though happy with the way his team hung on by making four straight free throws in the final minute and forcing Stony Brook into missing a couple of late 3s, Turgeon would like to see the Terps not fritter away big leads as they have done on occasion this season.
"I think we needed a close game to see how we would handle it," he said afterwards. "We just haven't been in that situation. There are some things I need to work on with the lead to make us better, some things I need to add as we go forward. We're such a young team it's hard to add things."
Getting more production from his highly-touted freshman class. While all four players have demonstrated at times why Turgeon wanted them as Terps, only guard Seth Allen has been consistently aggressive. The other three — center Shaquille Cleare and forwards Charles Mitchell and Jake Layman — have been more tentative lately than Turgeon would like.
After a strong start that included three double-digit scoring games and three-double digit rebounding games — two of them double-doubles — Mitchell has scored just nine points and pulled down nine rebounds in his last three games. Cleare has scored only one basket over 27 minutes in the team's last two games and after playing four minutes in the first half, Layman didn't even get off the bench in the second half against Stony Brook.
"I think it's a little bit what you expect [from freshmen]," said Turgeon, whose team will play one more non-conference game after Saturday — against IUPUI on New Year's Day — before playing the Hokies. "I think Seth's probably's been the most consistent of that group. Different games some guys have had more opportunities than others. The last game, I didn't think Jake really had the opportunity to play, so I don't think you can count the Stony Brook game for Jake.
"What I am seeing from all of our young guys is that they're getting better, they're continuing to improve. Sometimes they have to get better in practice before it starts happening in games and they can relax…There's so much basketball that's lies ahead and there are better games that are going to test us a lot more. The young guys, have they been as good as I thought they would be? Yeah, at times they have. At times, have they not been as good? Yeah, but you're talking about young guys adapting to a new situation."
•Limiting their opponent's shots around the basket. Still leading the ACC in both rebounds per game and rebounding margin — and ranked fourth nationally with better than 44 rebounds per game — the Terps have surrendered more than 10 offensive rebounds in four of their last five games. Though they won all of them, it remains an area of concern for Turgeon.
Mitchell's rebounding numbers have dropped off dramatically after averaging nearly eight rebounds a game through his first eight games. It has left Len as Maryland's only consistent rebounder — three games with 10 or more and three others with at least nine — and could present a problem if he were to get into foul trouble against ACC competition.
"Alex's obviously has been a great rebounder for us and is having a great year so far, but other guys will step up, our guards will help us rebound, " Turgeon said. "Charles got himself a little bit out of shape and he's worked hard to lose the weight that he had gained going into the Monmouth game, and he's playing better. Whether he'll get back up to that eight a game, we'll see. But we'll do it by committee, we'll have guys step up for us."
•Not playing down to the level of the competition. Maryland has been guilty of this on a number of occasions this season, committing a season-high 23 turnovers in a 33-point win over Monmouth as well as looking sluggish in a 15-point win over South Carolina State. Delaware State won at Delaware but is coming off a 28-point loss to Pittsburgh after losing in overtime at Penn State.
"Delaware State is a good team and they're well-coached, they're going to come in here and try to use the clock and grind it and make it a 50-point game [in scoring]," Turgeon said. "We didn't handle it very well against South Carolina State, so hopefully we'll be more prepared for that and handle it better when the shot clock's going down and limit them to one shot and execute better at the offensive end. We should be prepared. Hopefully we'll use all these opportunities to get better."