Every so often, Coach Mark Turgeon mentions his Maryland basketball team’s secondary break, a concept somewhat foreign to the casual observer. It’s the middle ground between transition and half-court offense, the staging area that sets up the team’s offense. If the fast break stalls, guards pull back the ball and typically receive a high screen on either side. It’s up to them to make the right decision.
Apart from Alex Len, who has scored in double figures in all six ACC games, the Terps’ big men have not generated much offense. Much of that can be attributed to matchup scenarios. Maryland went small on Tuesday against Boston College, and none of their post players except Len really got going. But the remaining issues, Turgeon said Thursday, can be traced back to a deficient secondary break.
“The problem is we’re not very good in our secondary break,” Turgeon said. “Our secondary break needs to get better. That gets James [Padgett] involved, it gets Charles [Mitchell] involved, it get Shaq [Cleare] involved. We’re pretty good in practice, but we’re not as good in games because we haven’t screened well enough.”
Thursday afternoon, Turgeon went on Sirius XM’s “Inside College Basketball” and was asked which area Maryland needed its most improvement. He responded by talking about Maryland’s screen issue, whether his post players aren’t picking hard enough or doing it in the right position.
“Just screening, running it right, making the right decisions,” Turgeon said during his news conference. “There’s two sides to our break every time. You have to read it right. It’s not that complicated, but sometimes we make it complicated. If we get better at that phase, then it’ll make James and Shaq and Charles better, and make us harder to guard. We’ll continue to work at it. Some days we’re really good in it, some stretches we’re really good in it, and other stretches we’re not.”
It worked perfectly in the opening seconds against the Eagles. After Len won the opening tip, the Terps set up like this:
Nick Faust’s options were to either work left off a Len screen or dish to Wells on the wing. Because Mitchell eventually sealed his man on the block, Faust chose to pass. Mitchell took two hard dribbles toward the middle, spun right and nailed a hook shot.
On their second possession, following a Ryan Anderson jumper, Faust dribbled down the left alley and again passed to Wells. Len posted up on the strong side, but Wells declined the post-entry pass and instead went off a high screen from Mitchell.
Jake Layman set a cross-screen for Len, who re-posted on the opposite side. After Wells swung the ball to Faust, Len was open for another hook.
Two possessions, two close-range buckets off the secondary break. Exactly the execution Turgeon has searched for.
“It’s really opening those guys up, getting them good shots around the basket,” Dez Wells said. “As long as they’re finishing, we play through those guys. Our front court is second to none in the conference. We like playing through those guys, so they can open it up for the guards.”