Maryland looked like a team refreshed against Wake Forest, the happiness returning to a relaxed bunch in a 26-point blowout win on Saturday. Even so, Coach Mark Turgeon noticed signs of fatigue, brought on by a rough stretch of five games in 15 days, including road losses at North Carolina, Duke and Florida State.
He cut Friday’s practice short because the Terrapins were exhausted, sending his players home without the standard post-workout shooting. And after Maryland blitzed the Demon Deacons, 86-60, at Comcast Center, Turgeon rewarded the team with the next two days off. They watched the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl. Many came in Monday for weightlifting and personal work. Then the Terps endured a strenuous practice Tuesday and planned something similar for Wednesday before flying to Virginia Tech for Thursday’s ACC matchup.
“Hopefully we’ll be fresh mentally, fresh physically,” Turgeon said Wednesday. “Yesterday their lungs were burning a little bit, it took a while. Once they got their second wind they were good. More about a mental relaxation more than anything.”
In drubbing Wake Forest, Maryland actually seemed fresher than it had in some time. The passes were crisp and the shots on point, the Terps racking up season highs in field goal percentage (67.3), three-point percentage (68.8) and players with double-digit points (six), as well as its most second-half points in 14 games (44).
Players such as Alex Len, Seth Allen and James Padgett rebounded from recent slumps. Logan Aronhalt and Jake Layman spaced the floor and found wide-open shots. If not, Maryland’s big men pounded inside, shooting a combined 16 for 19. The key, players said, was keeping things simple, rather than allow mental miscues to compound physical errors.
The Terps viewed February as a fresh start. They got one against Wake Forest.
“I wouldn’t say we were drained. I would just say we were focusing a lot,” Allen said. “Wake, [Turgeon] made it more simple. Play hard, give it all you got and have fun. People were worrying about making mistakes. But the further we are in our season, guys are playing more together and have stopped worrying about mistakes.”
Padgett was among those who came to Comcast Center on Monday, putting in about two and a half hours for conditioning and lifting.
“Sometimes, when you focus on basketball too much, things can get overwhelming,” said Padgett, whom Turgeon plans to keep in the starting lineup for Virginia Tech after consecutive solid outings. “You need time to cool down. But we’re in the season, and we have to stay focused on our goal. Even coming in on our days off, so we can keep our bodies and minds ready.”
The task ahead comes via the Hokies (11-10, 2-6), who boast the nation’s leading scorer in guard Erick Green (25 points per game) but have lost four straight. Most recently, Virginia Tech led both No. 8 Miami and North Carolina at halftime, but fell apart late.
In the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 5, Green attempted 11 free throws and notched a game-high 28 points for Virginia Tech, which was playing without forward C.J. Barksdale and suffered through a 2-of-12 performance from second-leading scorer Jarrell Eddie. In limiting Green, whom North Carolina held to 33.3 percent shooting and 16 points but had topped 30 in two of his previous three games, the scheme remains simple – make life difficult with multiple defenders and don’t allow easy shots.
“He’s good. He’s really good,” Turgeon said. “You watch him on film, it’s like, ‘Wow, what a year he’s having.’ If he gets 25 again, I hope it’s on 22 shots. He’s got to really work for them, and we have to do a better job on ball-screen defense, we have to do a better job keeping him off the foul line.”
The Terps (16-6, 4-5), meanwhile, are still searching for their first ACC road win this season and are 1-4 away from College Park (discounting neutral-site games). Turgeon’s teams have long held their own on the road, but immaturity and slow starts have contributed to this season’s issues. Either way, Maryland fancies itself reenergized and ready to go.
“It was good to get those two days off for recovery,” Layman said. “But we had a great practice yesterday and now we’re ready for V. Tech.”