Maryland basketball packs in recovery, prepraration before Pittsburgh game


Maryland guard Seth Allen, left, has given the team a boost since his return to the lineup after he missed time with a foot injury. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Water dripped from Seth Allen’s legs when he walked barefoot onto the Comcast Center court, leaving puddles in his wake. With roughly 48 hours between games, physical recovery was significant for the Maryland basketball team, and the ice bath Allen had plunged into moments earlier was among the most critical steps.

“It’s cold,” the sophomore point guard said. “But it helps.”

Every action has been scripted for this quick turnaround, one of three such swings the Terrapins will experience this season. Between beating Georgia Tech on Saturday and visiting Pittsburgh on Monday, Maryland will have blitzed through therapy, meals, sleep, practice, film sessions and more meals before the flight, at which point the Terps will sit down wearing skin-tight recovery pants to facilitate blood flow. The more advance planning the team’s staff members can achieve, the less the players have to worry about.

“As a staff, you talk about it,” said assistant Dustin Clark, the former director of basketball operations. “But with your team, you don’t talk about it. You want to move on, especially with a game like last night. We won and now we’ve got a new challenge in front of us. It really condenses that postgame process.”

It began at the final buzzer Saturday, when the Terps returned to their locker room and began drinking protein shakes. A postgame meal of grilled chicken sandwiches awaited them, and the players were on the honor system to sleep in their recovery pants. Curfew was at 11 p.m.

With practice scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Coach Mark Turgeon drove home to begin film study of Pittsburgh. The Panthers, undefeated at home this season and 13-1 overall, turned a 17-2 deficit into a 12-point victory Saturday in their ACC opener at North Carolina State. Coach Jamie Dixon’s 10-man rotation left Turgeon reviewing 20 to 25 clips on each player during his late-night cram session, which lasted until 1 a.m. The following morning, he watched film before and after church.

“It’s busy,” Turgeon said. “I’m tired. I’m not going to lie to you. But I’m also excited. What a big opportunity for us.”

The scout team, meanwhile, arrived at Comcast Center roughly an hour and a half before practice — after a team breakfast of bagels, fruits and nuts in their apartment building — to begin learning about the Panthers. Dixon likes ball screens, and his offense ranks 12th nationally in offensive efficiency, but if Pittsburgh ran frequent set plays, Turgeon said, the preparation would have been more challenging.

“You just don’t overdo it,” Turgeon said.

Energy conservation during Maryland’s 16-point rout of the Yellow Jackets helps, too. Forward Evan Smotrycz was the only Terp to play 30 minutes, and once the lead ballooned in the second half, Turgeon began thinking ahead to Pittsburgh. Afterward, the players drank more shakes and chose their preferred method of recovery: temperature contrast therapy, compression shorts, low-level cycling, whole-body vibration or the dreaded cold plunge.

“We ice-bath probably a billion times a day,” forward Charles Mitchell said.

During Sunday’s practice, as Turgeon kept close watch to notice whether anyone got tired, an intern scurried to the grocery store with the road trip shopping list: Two boxes of mini pretzels for players with a history of cramping. Twelve packs of beef jerky for extra protein. Squeezable applesauce and peanut butter and bananas because they’re healthy and the players love them. Inside the weight room, Kyle Tarp, the director of basketball performance, lugged around a box of cookies reserved for coaches unrestricted by nutritional guidelines.

Plenty more will happen once Maryland lands in Pittsburgh, where it can move to 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 2001-02. In the hotel rooms, Tarp will check thermostats to improve players’ quality of sleep. Everyone will receive massages, and the walk-ons will work out in the fitness center. Monday morning will bring breakfast, shoot-around, walk-through and perhaps more film, all before the 7 p.m. tip-off.

“A lot of preparation still between now and tomorrow night,” Turgeon said before the bus pulled away precisely at 4 p.m., bound for the runway at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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