Every so often, when the Maryland men’s basketball players require a refresher course in team principles, Dez Wells will address everyone in the locker room. After an embarrassing display at Ohio State on Wednesday, the junior’s message was simple.
“He brought everyone together and said we need to change something,” guard Varun Ram said.
Where to start? The Terrapins fell behind early against the fifth-ranked Buckeyes thanks to a fatal combination of bumbling ball control and poor defense. Before facing George Washington in the BB&T Classic, fixing those took top priority. When Coach Mark Turgeon addressed the media Saturday afternoon, he joked that only interviews saved Maryland from practicing three more hours. Clearly, Turgeon felt more work was needed.
Last season, Turgeon regularly shuffled his starting lineup. This season, he has used just three lineups in eight games, and one of those came because sophomore Jake Layman was hurt. He had no idea who would start against George Washington (7-1), which received one 24th-place vote in the latest Associated Press top-25 poll, but wholesale changes — or at least a little tweaking — are a possibility.
“Do we change everything?” Turgeon said. “Absolutely not. Do you try to try to figure some things out? Yeah, I think you always try to do that. Wins or losses, you try to make your team better.”
Chief among those potential switches is curbing the experiment of Wells at point guard, which hasn’t quite catalyzed Maryland’s offense the way Turgeon hoped after Seth Allen broke his foot during the preseason. If anything, moving Wells back to shooting guard, his natural position, allows the team’s third-leading scorer to create from the wing. Seventeen of his 19 points against Ohio State came in the second half, when Ram started at point.
“You guys saw it firsthand,” Ram said. “He’s scoring layups at will off the ball. It’s tough to do that as a point guard because you want to get everybody involved, run the offense. That takes away from his ability to finish at the rim. He definitely seemed more confident moving forward at the two.”
And while freshman Roddy Peters may represent the program’s future given his natural talent and strong court vision, Turgeon said Ram — a 5-foot-9 junior from River Hill — has been the most consistent point guard. Of Maryland’s regulars, he was the only one who finished with a positive plus-minus rating in Columbus.
On the opposite bench sit the Colonials, one week removed from a third-place finish at the Wooden Legacy in California, where they upset No. 20 Creighton. Even without suffocating wing defender Patricio Garino (broken finger) and possibly point guard Joe McDonald (hip), George Washington might enter Sunday as the favorite, an inconceivable notion to Maryland fans when the matchup initially came out many months ago.
“Sometimes it’s matchups,” George Washington Coach Mike Lonergan said of the Terps. “You’re never as bad or as good as you think. That was a tough situation going to Ohio State. . . . I don’t take too much stock in that. I saw them against Providence. I watched some tape last night. They’re good. They’re definitely playing a lot better now if you take out that Ohio State game.”
But the Terps’ problems were exposed in that 16-point loss at Value City Arena, where Maryland fell behind early and never quite competed. Turgeon again lauded the efforts his players displayed during practice this weekend, but that came only after the drubbing had occurred on national television.
“I just told the players, I’m a parent, too,” Turgeon said. “And the only way I can be a good parent is if my kids listen. If my kids don’t listen, I discipline them, and hopefully they learn from the discipline. Same with coaching. You hope they listen. If you don’t’ do it right, you try to discipline them, and eventually it’s going to mean more to them than it does to me. When that happens, we’ll become a really good team again.”
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