Morning review: Terps offensive execution was pinpoint in first half

December 22, 2012

Even Coach Mark Turgeon had outdone himself here. Maryland’s basketball coach entered a nine-day break fretting about his team’s offensive execution, worrying that mental errors had begat turnovers, and the Terrapins would suffer in future games accordingly.

And so Maryland installed some new elements and drilled consistency on offense throughout its two-a-day practices in between exam periods, focusing on the inside-out half-court principles that, when properly performed, make for a very dangerous and deep attack.

But even Turgeon couldn’t have foreseen Maryland’s near-perfect start Friday against Stony Brook, which had the Terps up 22-10 after seven minutes and relegated the Seawolves into catch –up mode all evening.

“I didn’t know what I was going to get,” Turgeon said. “I don’t try to read players anymore or that stuff. We looked fresh. We really looked fresh.”

Maryland scored on its first four offensive possessions, starting with an Alex Len layup and jumper, followed by a Pe’Shon Howard three-pointer and another Len jumper. Len got a quick hook just three minutes in after a couple defensive lapses and an early foul, but after a Dez Wells traveling call, Nick Faust stuck another three-pointer that put the Terps up 12-5.

“I think it was the best our execution has been by far,” Len said. “You saw, a couple weeks ago, we were struggling with it, but we’ve been working a lot on our execution. We showed today. We improved a lot. We were taking care of the ball. Eleven turnovers, lowest of the season. Our execution improved.”

Indeed, it was a far cry from the struggles Maryland endured against Monmouth on Dec. 12, when mental mistakes in transition contributed to errant passes sailing out of bounds. In the first half against Stony Brook, however, the Terps were calm, almost at ease within the system, whipping passes around the perimeter and dumping post-entry passes when necessary.

Seth Allen was 3 for 4 from beyond the arc while Pe’Shon Howard and Logan Aronhalt were 2 for 4 each. With so much attention drawn to Len, the Terps’ guards can float down the arc towards the corner for open three-pointers, especially given Len’s passing abilities and court vision.

“We executed very well at the beginning of the game,” Nick Faust said. “We just wanted to play inside-out. Big guys got open and it opened up outside shots.”

More importantly, Maryland operated through Len, working its motion offense inside first, then playing off cuts and double-teams with ease. Problems surfaced in the second half when Stony Brook began aggressively fronting Len, but for a first-half stretch the Terrapins were unstoppable offensively.

“We really executed in the first half,” Turgeon said. “We ran all our stuff, ran different things. We did a nice job … Up until the three-minute mark, we looked like a well-oiled machine, which is good to see.”

Perhaps the players were simply dialed in after that lengthy lull between games, hyper-focused and determined to alleviate Turgeon’s fears that Stony Brook would pose a bigger problem earlier in the evening. But the Terps shot 68.4 percent from the field in the first half (18 of 28) and 58.3 percent from three-point range (7 of 12) as the lead swelled to 20 points early in the second half before Maryland went cold from the field and the Seawolves began clawing back.

“I thought we did a great job in the first half,” Howard said. “We had a few miscues, but they’re a great team, so we knew they weren’t going to just fold and stop playing. Then we were really focused, also because we haven’t played in so long. Guys were really excited to get a game, maybe to get another break.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | December 22, 2012