Tuesday night’s storyline during Maryland’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge game at Northwestern might center on conference realignment; this will be a conference game beginning in the 2014-15 season.
Coach Mark Turgeon isn’t exactly seeing it that way.
“I just coach where I am, coach my team,” Turgeon said. “One good league to another. Travel’s going to be a little bit harder, but hey, I’m going to make the most of the next two years, then we’ll dive into the Big Ten when the time comes. It’s not really dramatic to me that we’re playing Northwestern. I just want to win the game Tuesday. That’s really all that matters. I want my team to start getting better.”
Still, Tuesday night represents a crucial challenge for these Terps, whose non-conference schedule isn’t exactly littered with heavy hitters. The visit to Evanston is the Terps’ lone true road test before ACC play begins (Maryland lost to Kentucky in Brooklyn and faces George Mason at the Verizon Center).
Turgeon’s players know this. Before a sloppy 70-53 win over Georgia Southern on Saturday, the Terps weren’t exactly “dialed in” during practice, Turgeon said. That changed during Sunday’s practice, when the players looked ahead and saw opportunity to make a statement away from the Comcast Center.
“We were obviously not a very good road team last year,” Turgeon said. “We defend better, that’s pretty obvious, and we rebound better. That right there gives you a chance on the road. We’re not executing at a high level but we’re sharing the ball pretty well. Hopefully we’ll grow up and play with some maturity and some poise. Those are the things you need on the road to be successful. We’re looking forward to the next step. Let’s see if we can do it.”
Running the Princeton offense, the Wildcats rely on backdoor cuts and screens to create open looks. The Terps will need to remain disciplined in the half-court, contesting three-point shots well.
“It’s a tough challenge for our team, where we are right now,” Turgeon said. “They have shooters all over the floor. Lafayette got hot against us, we had trouble guarding it. That game will help us Tuesday. It’s just a hard game. A lot of stuff to throw at our guys. We’ve played against the system in the past. Hopefully we’ll break it down, have the right game plan defensively. Hopefully we’ll be able to execute it.
“Against the zone, they run the 1-3-1 halfcourt trap. Got to make shots, got to be strong with the ball. We’ll work on it, hopefully we’ll play well against it. We’ve seen it before this year, not as well as they run it.”