Maryland basketball vs. Boston College: Previewing the ACC opener

December 12, 2013

(Richard A. Lipski for The Washington Post)

THE INFO

Who: Maryland (5-4) at Boston College (3-6)
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
TV: ESPNU (Tom Hart, play-by-play; Len Elmore, analyst)
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM, 980 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (third season, 47-32). Eagles – Steve Donahue (fourth season, 49-58)

THE SCRIPT

Two teams careening down the tracks meet in their conference openers on Thursday night in chilly Massachusetts, where one squad will remain undefeated in ACC play until the New Year while another will sink deeper in an already disappointing season. The Terrapins are losers of two straight and owners of the program’s worst nine-game start since 1986. The Eagles, who once harbored hopes of the program’s first NCAA tournament bid under Coach Steve Donahue, have sputtered against a tough early schedule that included losses to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Providence, Toledo and Southern California. Both sides possess dangerous scorers capable of exploding on any given night and offenses that rank among the nation’s top third in efficiency. But listless play at times has sunk Maryland and Boston College this season, and both sides arrive at Conte Forum seeking a boost.

THE QUESTIONS

1) Be careful? More than one in five Maryland possessions this season have resulted in a turnover, a rate that ranks 277th nationally. It’s by no means a death sentence – teams like Georgetown and Indiana are also hovering around that level – but early mistakes have begat slow starts that, against both Ohio State and George Washington, begat sizable first-half deficits.

This is why Maryland, as a team, has 18 more turnovers than it does assists this season, and partially why it sits at this crossroads, in dire need of avoiding another demoralizing defeat. If freshman Roddy Peters indeed receives more minutes at point guard, like Coach Mark Turgeon hinted he would, he needs to curb that absurd 35.2 percent turnover rate. The good news for the Terps? Boston College is the nation’s 19th-worst team at forcing turnovers.

“We’ve got to get the turnovers down,” Turgeon said. “Our guys know it. We continue to talk about it. Trying to figure it out. I think we’ve done some good things this week that should help in that category.”

2) Win the free throw battle? One major statistical discrepancy between these two sides occurs at the free throw line, where the Eagles are the country’s second-best (80.8 percent) and the Terps 315th (62.6). Turgeon also likes having his teams make more free throws than their opponents attempt, and in this category Maryland has fallen woefully short, too. Through nine games, it has made 124 of 198 free throws, while its opponents have made 136 of 193.

3) Contest shots? Boston College can fill up the box score from deep, particularly with shooters like Olivier Hanlan, Patrick Heckmann and Alex Dragicevich. But no Eagles player is shooting better than 40 percent on three-pointers this season, so Maryland must contest shots to ensure that number stays low and the hosts don’t heat-check their way to an early lead.

“Guys just got to guard better,” Turgeon said. “When the shot clock’s going down, you’ve got to guard. The thing is, they’re going to get probably 25 to 35 three-point shots up tomorrow night. Hopefully if they shoot 35, 28 to 30 are pretty contested and they miss a lot of them for us. They’re hard to guard. They space you. They’re really good. Hopefully they’re over a hand.”

THE STATS

20.6: Maryland’s committed turnover rate, 277th nationally.

14.6: Boston College’s forced turnover rate, 333rd nationally.

12: Jake Layman’s scoring average over the past four games, a number that’s skewed by the 27 points he scored against Morgan State on Nov. 29. He scored 6, 2 and 13 points in the other three games.

THE LINKS

Turgeon, Terps try to stay upbeat

Defense and rim protection haunting Terps

Roddy Peters is the best PG option

Jon Graham provided surprise boost

Heartbreaking finish masked bigger problems

THE QUOTES

“I know everybody thinks the world’s coming to an end if you’re a Terps basketball fan, but I’m really positive about the future and what lies ahead for us.” –Turgeon.

“Every game you want to turn the page. You don’t want to look back on things you did wrong or how bad the game was for us or the end result. You want to move on from game to game and get better in practice.” – forward Jon Graham.

THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY

“Turn the Beat Around” by Vicki Sue Robinson


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 12, 2013