Who: Maryland (6-4) at Florida Atlantic (3-7)
When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
Where: Comcast Center
TV: Comcast SportsNet.
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM, 980 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (Third season, 48-32). Owls – Mike Jarvis (sixth season, 70-97)
No matter that Boston College is floundering, and no matter the way it happened, but Thursday night’s 88-80 win over the Eagles was huge for a Maryland men’s basketball program that entered with a two-game losing streak and had never fared well under Coach Mark Turgeon in Chestnut Hill, Mass. But the Terrapins aren’t going to lose many games when Dez Wells outscores the entire opposition, 18-16, over the final seven minutes and notches a career-high 33 points. Now Maryland closes 2013 with four more nonconference games, beginning Saturday with Florida Atlantic, a feisty group that has still, no matter how you slice it, lost seven of nine since its opener.
1) Avoid the letdown? Of course, this narrative will surround Maryland following just its third ACC road win under Turgeon. Florida Atlantic isn’t particularly stellar in any category, and the Owls rank 270th or worse nationally in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage and turnovers forced. The Terps will be favored, and justifiably so. But the question remains, will they use the BC win as a springboard or play more like the group that started slow against the likes of Abilene Christian?
2) Keep the motion? Yes, Maryland’s offense became the Dez Wells Show after the penultimate media timeout on Thursday night, as everyone basically cleared out and let the junior beat his defender off the dribble. But the Terps also enjoyed arguably their best start this season in the first half, sprinting to a 23-11 lead, based on crisp passing around the perimeter that found the open shooter, even when those shooters were Wells or Nick Faust. Turgeon added some new wrinkles to the offense, like in this video from Testudo Times. That constant motion is something Maryland hasn’t done all season. Seriously. A double baseline screen to free up Jake Layman, where both screeners hit their mark? Unfathomable.
3) Avoid the takeover mode? Wells probably flew home from Boston utterly gassed, and who could blame him? He scored 18 points over the final seven minutes, while the rest of his teammates had eight. Don’t expect a repeat performance against the Owls, but the Terps won’t need Wells to enter takeover mode if they bury Florida Atlantic early and help their leader out down the stretch.
1.37: Points per possession scored by Wells against Boston College.
3: ACC road wins in Turgeon’s first two seasons at Maryland.
Jan. 4: The earliest Maryland can relinquish partial possession of first place in the ACC, because moral victories.
“We don’t have a lot of time to celebrate. We’ve got a Florida Atlantic team that’s pretty good. We know we’ve got a tough game on Saturday in less than 48 hours. It’s good. Food’s going to taste a little better, might be a little more sleep. It’s been a tough stretch for us. We expected more. But we talked about hey, we haven’t been good in non-conference, we’ve got to be good in the ACC. The only chance you have to be good in the ACC is if you can win a few road games. It was good to get one. I think we had only two on the road last year? Maybe one?” – Turgeon. By the way, it was two, at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
“It makes it easy on me. I don’t have to do much. Just watch him do his thing and get us to that win.” – Layman on Wells.
THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY
“Coastin'” by Zion I