Terps turn to new method for fixing turnovers

December 10, 2012

(Associated Press)

Turnovers continue to be an issue for the Maryland men’s basketball team, so Coach Mark Turgeon has employed a new method of accountability in practice.

Make a bad pass? Five pushups. Dribble a basketball off your foot and out of bounds? Five pushups. Got your pocket picked at midcourt? You know the drill.

“Unless you want to do pushups all practice, you have to take care of the ball,” freshman guard Seth Allen said. “Five pushups is hard when you’re tired.”

The Terrapins haven’t committed less than 10 turnovers in a game all season, with their low of 11 coming in the opener against Kentucky on Nov. 9. Maryland committed 12 turnovers in Saturday’s win over South Carolina State, its fewest since having 12 against Lafayette on Nov. 20, but many of those were, in Turgeon’s eyes, easily correctable.

“We worked on it, we were better,” Turgeon said. “Our guards were pretty good last game. The assists-turnover, if you look at it, the guards were good, the bigs were bad. Charles had two early and Shaq had two in the second half. That’s four of our 11 that shouldn’t happen. Those turnovers, you can clean them up. We’re doing some things in practice that will help us. I was pretty happy with that numbers.”

Mitchell’s two turnovers, coupled with some defensive lapses, earned him a quick seat on the bench against the Bulldogs. After the Dec. 2 win over George Mason, Turgeon joked with Dez Wells that he was on pace to set a record in turnovers, even after the sophomore scored a career-high 25 points.

“We should have had fewer turnovers,” Mitchell said after Maryland’s 100-68 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore last week. “Just don’t overdo it or force anything.” 

While errors haven’t yet cost the Terps dearly throughout their eight-game winning streak, chopping them down has continued to be a point of emphasis during practices, hence the gentle five-pushup reminders.

Maryland has the third-most turnovers in the ACC, with eight players averaging at least 1.5 per game, and still ranks last in the conference with a minus-4.56 turnover margin. And despite leading the team in turnover percentage, a metric estimating the number of turnovers per 100 plays, Pe’Shon Howard also leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.

But against South Carolina State, no player made more than two turnovers for the first time since the Kentucky game, and eight of Maryland’s 11 came from the four freshmen – Mitchell, Cleare, Allen and Jake Layman. Many are mental errors, like simply trying to force a bad pass in transition or letting a pass slip through your hands. But if it happens in a game, these Terps can really only hope to respond in one way.

“Keep playing, play hard, play harder, keep your head off and move onto the next play no matter what happens,” Wells said. “Make a turnover? Get back on D no matter what happens. That’s the best thing you can do, move onto the next play.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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