On Tuesday, Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon was given every opportunity to explain away his team’s sluggish rebounding effort against Connecticut in Friday night’s season opener. Were the Terrapins starry-eyed on the big stage in Brooklyn, N.Y., or perhaps nervous over playing the nation’s 18th-ranked team?
Here Turgeon interjected. He had heard enough.
“No, let’s don’t make excuses for them,” Turgeon said. “It was just laziness and not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. If they want to be great, they’ll stop doing those things. If they want to be mediocre, we’ll play like we did Friday night.”
Harsh criticism, perhaps. But given how Turgeon’s teams pride themselves on strong rebounding, the postgame text messages he received from friends and colleagues, questioning Maryland’s poor effort on the glass, validated the sentiment.
The Huskies were among the nation’s worst rebounding teams last season, ranking 279th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 319th in defense rebounding percentage. The story lines from Connecticut leading into Friday’s game focused on this nasty smudge on the team’s otherwise strong season, and how Coach Kevin Ollie planned to fix it.
Five offensive rebounds within the first 10 minutes answered those questions. Without Alex Len manning the paint, the Terps failed to corral missed shots or even simply box out the Huskies. Contrast this to last season, when they ranked in the top 41 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentages.
“It was us,” Turgeon said. “[Connecticut] made an emphasis. All week going in they were talking about how bad their rebounding was. I thought ours was pretty good and obviously I was fooled.”
Against Connecticut, Forward Evan Smotrycz finished with a team-high nine rebounds, but struggled before halftime on the defensive glass. Even more concerning, Maryland’s three true post players – Charles Mitchell, Shaquille Cleare and Damonte Dodd – combined for just four rebounds over 40 combined minutes.
“When I saw how many rebounds I had, I felt like that was disappointing,” said Mitchell, who during nonconference play last season ranked among the nation’s leaders in offensive rebounding percentage. “That’s what I pride myself on. That’s what I know I can help my teammates on the most. As a team, we outrebounded like 90 percent of the teams last year. That’s a downfall to our team. We have the size and the length to outrebound every team. It’s an effort thing.”
Mitchell is correct. No opponent outrebounded Maryland until its 11th ACC game, and just three teams did the entire season. That Connecticut was outrebounded by 10 against Yale – allowing 17 on the offensive glass alone – in its next game only compounded Turgeon’s frustration.
“We’ve done a lot of rebounding drills since Friday night,” he said.
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