With four games remaining in the regular season, the challenge of keeping Maryland’s roster in fighting shape has reared itself again.
With point guard Pe’Shon Howard out for the season, senior Sean Mosley, shooting ace Terrell Stoglin and freshman Nick Faust are being called upon for more minutes and higher production. Meanwhile, the Terps’ lanky front court is getting outmuscled under the rim.
And the Terps (15-11, 5-7 ACC) are in a grueling competitive stretch: Tuesday’s game against Miami (16-9, 7-5) at Comcast Center is their third in six days.
“It’s really hard,” Turgeon conceded Monday before the squad regrouped for practice following Saturday’s 71-44 drubbing at Virginia, in which the Terps were outscored 40-13 in the second half.
Turgeon said in an ideal world, he would keep practice short. “Less is more this time of year,” he recently explained. “Staying mentally and physically fresh is important.”
But given the roster shuffling wrought by Howard’s injury, which has thrust Faust back to point guard, altered Mosley’s duties and pressed lightly used players such as Mychal Parker into the mix, Turgeon needs all the practice time the NCAA permits to teach players their new roles.
Maryland exceeded expectations through the first half of the ACC season. Then, however, Howard was running the point and freshman Alex Len had joined the squad after 11 games.
The Terps were 3-3 in conference play when they traveled to Miami in hopes of picking up their first road victory on Feb. 1. Instead, they came away with a 90-86 double-overtime defeat. Mosley and Stoglin played a game-high 44 minutes and Stoglin scored a career-high 33 points.
While Turgeon insisted that fatigue wasn’t a factor in the loss or in any other defeat (citing a lack of “toughness” or “want to” instead), Maryland has suffered listless stretches late in games that have cost them dearly — notably at Virginia.
Stoglin is averaging a team-high 32.4 minutes per game (tied for seventh most in the ACC), but there’s no evidence it’s hurting his shooting. He remains the ACC’s leading scorer (21.4 points per game) and leads the league in three-point baskets made (72, or 2.8 per game).
Then again, fatigue tends to show itself in lackadaisical defense and free throws that fall just short.
Berend Weijs, the 6-10 center who splits time with Len, said he feels that inexperience, rather than fatigue, has been to blame for the late-game lapses.
“We have the feeling, ‘We GOT this!’ ” Weijs said of games in which Maryland has let big leads slip away. “At the end, you start getting a little lazy. We’re a young team, and in high school you can get away with that. In [the Netherlands], if you were up on a team, you could have a little lapse. Over here, you can’t have any of those lapses. You’re playing in the ACC, against future NBA players.”
For Tuesday’s rematch against Miami, Turgeon said he’s struggling to come up with five players he felt truly deserved a chance to start after the poor showing at Virginia. Junior forward James Padgett will be among them, he said. And he intends to use at least one walk-on in the first half to spell his guards (either Jonathan Thomas or Arnold Richmond).
“I’ve got to make our bench deeper than it is so we have a fighting chance in the second half, if it’s a close game,” Turgeon said.