Morning Shootaround: Analyzing Maryland's 51-50 win over N.C. State

January 17, 2013|By Don Markus | The Baltimore Sun

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 news 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.

Final score: Maryland 51, No. 14 North Carolina State 50 at Comcast Center on Wednesday

You know it was going to happen eventually. It took Mark Turgeon 49 games in College Park to get his first true signature win. He had a couple of victories last season -- at Clemson and at home over Miami -- that helped the Terps keep building toward this season and kept their fans hoping for a breakthrough.

It nearly came in the season opener against Kentucky, then ranked No. 3 in the country and now not even sniffing the Top 25. As ugly as this one was to watch, even for Turgeon and the sellout crowd, it will only be remembered as a one-point win in a couple of days or weeks.

But the reality is that Maryland needs to build off its first big win of the Turgeon era and knock off another ranked team -- or even unranked North Carolina on Saturday -- to not lose the feeling it had leaving the fan-swarmed court after beating the Wolfpack.

"When you are young starting two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior who wasn't here last year, it isn't going to be easy," Turgeon said. "I am really happy for the guys because I have been on them very hard since Florida State."

But Turgeon will be back at practice Thursday, getting ready for the Tar Heels, trying to get his team to run its plays like he draws them up, hoping that the Terps can find a way to start making shots, particularly 3-pointers. He might even want to have Dez Wells work on breakaway dunks.

3-point shots

Despite game-winner, Len has to do more

Though Len wound up making the game-winning shot -- the first the 7-foot-1 sophomore center from the Ukraine said he has ever made anywhere -- and played well down the stretch, scoring Maryland's last six points, I keep waiting for him to explode the way he did in the season opener against Kentucky (23 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots.)

Though he has put up solid numbers, a player who many expect to be an NBA lottery pick next spring hasn't dominated that way since. For all the muscle he put on over the summer, you expect Len to be able to take over against a team that doesn't have a regular player over 6-9. Except for that closing stretch, which gave Len a team-high 10 points, he was nothing more than ordinary.

Len said after the game that Turgeon doesn't care about his offensive numbers, as long as he's playing good defense.

"Coach doesn't really care how we play on offense, he wants us to keep guarding," Len said. "When we watch film, we don't watch our offensive plays, we are trying to figure out our defense and who we are going to guard."

I know that Turgeon preaches defense, and said that given his team's continued offensive struggles, the Terps need to "hang our hat" on defense. They seem to be doing a better job getting the ball inside to Len, or at least on the baseline, but Maryland still needs Len to use his size and added strength more than he has for most of the season in order for the Terps to pull off a few more upsets.

Pe'Shon's "pass"

The flick of Pe'Shon Howard's right wrist on his off-balanced baseline heave in the waning seconds Wednesday was an indication that Maryland's last play had broken down. Give Howard credit for getting the shot -- and it was a shot -- to the rim. But that wasn't a pass. Even the official scorer ruled it a shot.

Still, Howard has been in such a shooting slump -- 0-for-13 coming into the N.C. State game -- that his performance against the Wolfpack was certainly the most positive thing that has happened to him since the ACC schedule began.

Coming off the bench for the second straight game, Howard finished 3 of 9 from the field and 1 of 4 on 3-pointers, yet his seven points, five rebounds, two assists, no turnovers and some tough defense against Wolfpack gunner Scott Wood (3 of 13, including 3 of 11 on 3-pointers) was one of his better games this season.

"I definitely think Pe'Shon played with a chip on his shoulder," said sophomore Nick Faust (City), who started at the point for the first time since the end of last season. "Just trying to believe himself and the team [believe in him]. He played well today. He did a great job."

Speaking of the point guard situation, Turgeon seemed pleased with the way Faust ran the team, despite the fact that he made only 3 of 11 from the field. He had seven rebounds, three assists and only one turnover in 31 minutes.

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