Suddenly for limited Terps, it's all about defense

Maryland is averaging 62 points per game since ACC play began

January 28, 2013|By Jeff Barker | The Baltimore Sun

Maryland scored 64 points and shot 42 percent against Duke on Saturday, but it wasn’t the team’s offense that coach Mark Turgeon said today that he was most concerned about. It was the defense.

Here’s why:

Maryland has turned into a solid defensive team – far better than last season. Since the Terps don’t score much these days – a 62-point average since ACC play began – their chances are increasingly dependent on keeping the score down. Maryland ranks ninth in the conference in scoring average in ACC games.

“It was more our defense on Saturday than anything,” Turgeon said today during the ACC media call. “We made some defensive mistakes that helped them. So that was the disappointing part.”

Maryland opponents shot 42.8 percent last season.

That disturbed Turgeon probably as much as anything that unfolded in 2011-12. “We'd like our defensive field-goal percentage to be under 40 percent. We didn't get that done last year," he told me before the season began.

This season, Maryland is limiting opponents to 37.7 percent in league games, second in the ACC behind Miami.

The Blue Devils shot 52.4 percent Saturday. That was Maryland’s undoing. The Terps aren’t ready to win shootouts. They need pitchers’ duels.

Of course, it all begs the question: Why has Maryland’s scoring dipped so precipitously since the ACC schedule began?

Here are a few theories:

** The easiest explanation is that the competition is better. Miami and Duke on the road? That’s tough given that both teams not only have talented players, but talented senior leadership.

** Maryland doesn’t have a true point guard and isn’t making good ball-handling decisions. The Terps simply have too many turnovers. Their inconsistent decisions handicap the “secondary breaks” that Turgeon is so fond of. These are breaks in which the Terps don’t have a man advantage, but try to push the ball to keep the defense back on its heels.

** Maryland’s freshmen haven’t developed as quickly as fans would like. I think they will be very good. But their best efforts come only sporadically.

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