Mark Turgeon sat behind three microphones at a Comcast Center table answering questions about his Maryland basketball team’s affinity for turnovers, not looking nearly as sleep-deprived as he felt after fretting throughout the weekend about ball security.
Through seven games, the Terrapins rank last in the ACC in turnover margin (minus-5.86), second worst in turnovers per game (15.6) and last in turnovers forced per game (9.7), a category in which Maryland ranks 324th nationally. The Terps’ sheer talent has largely negated the damage caused by excessive turnovers, but Maryland knows that cutting back has become top priority with ACC play one month away.
“I can’t figure it out,” Turgeon said Tuesday with a sigh. “Just really trying to go too fast in decision-making. I can’t control ones when the guys just dribble off their feet or fumble the ball out of bounds when they have a layup. Lack of concentration, not valuing each possession the way we should.”
Turgeon begged his players throughout Sunday’s 69-62 win over George Mason to get into the secondary fast break — quickly setting up a play out of transition while continually moving toward the basket — if the primary fast break stalled, a bread-and-butter tactic used against Northwestern the previous Tuesday.
The Terps did it just twice in the second half and scored both times. However, they broke off the secondary break seven times, slowing things down to let their offensive players get into position.
“That’s part of the problem’ Turgeon said. “Trying to make a spectacular play instead of the easy play.”
“Sometimes we want to make the extra pass so bad we force it,” swingman Dez Wells said. “Sometimes we may not be doing well in the game offensively, so we want to come down and make a play, just being more aggressive than we want to be, help the team out and get the game in our favor.
“By ACC play, I feel like we should have our turnovers from about 16 a game to at least 12 a game. If we’re making those kind of strides, then the sky’s the limit for us.”
A basketball coach at his core, Turgeon nonetheless drew some inspiration from the ice. Hockey credits secondary assists, or the pass that set up the pass that set up the goal. Maybe if basketball did the same, Turgeon reasoned, his players would cut back on turnovers.
“I wish our game did that,” Turgeon said. “Our guys always want to make the pass that leads to the basket instead of the pass that leads to the pass. If they would think that way, still feel good about that pass, because I know I do, that would really help our team.”
Turgeon hasn’t yet punished his team with wind sprints for turnovers, but that may come soon enough. Ever animated, he’ll yell in practice, frustrated every time he sees the problems pop up again. But with the majority of turnovers stemming from sloppiness and immaturity, be it taking one’s eye off an incoming pass or dribbling aimlessly off an appendage or trying to “make the home run play,” Turgeon knows it’s fixable.
“With those types of things, you just watch film, you religiously watch film and try to find the best thing that can help out in any situation,” said Wells, who leads Maryland with 21 turnovers. “Turnovers is a sign of immaturity, and we have a lot of that within myself and the other guys. Just a matter of timing, knowing how to make the right plays. We shouldn’t force the issue as much. Coach is going to stay on us, and that’s a great thing for us.”