The beatdown happened less than three weeks ago so the painful memories are still fresh. The first-half barrage of three-pointers by Pittsburgh. The horrible shooting by the Maryland men’s basketball team. The basket of eggs laid at Petersen Events Center as the Oakland Zoo hooted and hollered, the ACC newcomers obliterating the team on its way out the door.
“We’re really I guess [ticked] off about what happened last game,” forward Jake Layman said. “We’re looking to come into our home crowd tomorrow and show them all we’ve got.”
Since that night, in the middle of the first polar vortex to blanket the region, the Terrapins have lost by 24 points to Florida State, found fun in a home win over Notre Dame then promptly fumbled away that happiness against T.J. Warren-less North Carolina State. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, nearly handed Syracuse its first loss this season and has otherwise romped through its debut season in the conference.
“Well, they’re really good,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “We learned that. And they’ve continued to be really good. They’re more physical than we were. They’re very good defensively, we have to be stronger with the ball. They strip you down low when you’re driving the ball.”
The Panthers also rose to No. 20 in the Associated Press top 25 and No. 19 in the USA Today coaches’ poll, but lost Baltimore native Durand Johnson, who torched the Terps for 17 points in early January, to a season-ending torn ACL. Still, Pittsburgh enters Comcast Center as the favorite, and justifiably so given its high-powered offense (sixth nationally in adjusted efficiency) backed by all-American candidate Lamar Patterson.
“It motivates us a lot,” Wells said of the 79-59 game. “You never want to lose a game, but you especially don’t want to lose at home. It should be a good crowd in here and we just want to come out and play with Maryland pride.”
>> Entering Monday night, freshman center Damonte Dodd had played 88 minutes over 12 games, scored six total points and generally looked like little more than a long-term project who possessed the athleticism but still needed refinement to become a contributing member at Maryland.
By halftime at PNC Arena, Dodd had doubled his offensive output, grabbed four rebounds, blocked one shot and won over plenty of Terps fans.
“I was really impressed,” Turgeon said. “He gave us big minutes, played well, gives us length around the rim. He’ll play tomorrow night [against Pittsburgh]. How much is how he handles it, but he gives us something we don’t have. He finished around the rim where no one else could finish. He gives us a presence, blocked a shot from behind in that game and he’s a real good athlete. He’s coming. He’s got a long ways to go but he’s coming. The great thing for him is he’s getting minutes, it’s going to help him as his career goes on.
“Defensively, his light’s really come a long ways, understanding ourr principles and stuff. When he’s out there being active, we’re much better defensively. Can he catch a pass, get it to the rim quick and dunk it? Yeah. But defensively is where he’s come the furthest.”
>> Turgeon represents just one branch jutting out from the Larry Brown Coaching Tree, so after Monday’s loss he phoned his mentor, who had watched the entire game, and chatted.
“He said you might get more out of this game because you lost than if you had won and had a false sense of security, being 4-2 in the league,” Turgeon recalled Brown saying.
An interesting take, to say the least, particularly because Turgeon preceded this anecdote by saying, “Yeah, we’ll take any wins.”
>> Charles Mitchell ranks fifth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (18.8 percent), per KenPom, and is shooting 80.8 percent on put-backs, per Hoop-Math. Against North Carolina State, Mitchell grabbed nine offensive rebounds, went 4 for 7 on put-backs and reached the free throw line once, where he missed both attempts.
Mitchell, for what it’s worth, is shooting 34.5 percent on free throws this season and hasn’t made one since New Years’ Eve and the Terps are shooting 65.5 percent, which ranks 313th nationally.
Just for comparison, below are the free-throw shooting percentages of every Turgeon-coached team. The 2007-08 valley at Texas A&M can be largely attributed to the DeAndre Jordan Effect (43.7 percent in 119 attempts during his lone season), but ever since Wichita State, Turgeon hasn’t recruited good free-throw shooters, nor have his players developed into successful ones from the stripe:
>> Since returning from his broken left foot, Seth Allen is shooting a rather respectable 40 percent on three-pointers and takes nearly 60 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. The problem? Of those remaining 40 percent of shots, he’s just 4 of 19 at the rim and 2 of 9 on two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math. The lingering health issues have certainly contributed to his inability to finish in traffic.
“He hasn’t gotten his step back yet,” Dez Wells said. ‘He hasn’t gotten his step and his burst of speed back yet. But once he does, he’ll be fine.”
>> The Terps are shooting 46.8 percent from inside the arc this season, the second-worst mark of Turgeon’s career since 2003. The worst came in 2011-12 at 46.1 percent, on a team that had far fewer offensive weapons than this one.
>> Jake Layman still manages to have the team’s best offensive rating (1.19 points per possession) with a usage rate lower than every regular except Shaq Cleare (17 percent).