Yes, yes, National Signing Day 2013 and all that. But the Maryland men’s basketball team still plays tomorrow night at Virginia Tech. In between the football madness, here are some notes from Coach Mark Turgeon’s news conference on Wednesday, featuring some birthday cake.
>> Long a point of contention among fans, Maryland’s point guard situation doesn’t look like it’s settling on one player anytime soon. Nick Faust will start Thursday against the Hokies, guarding the nation’s leading scorer in guard Erick Green (25 points per game). Seth Allen and Pe’Shon Howard will continue to get run off the bench.
“It’s hard. If I had it figured out, I would have figured it out a long time ago,” Turgeon said. “Nick will start at point, I let him play through a couple mistakes, which I told him. Told Nick, I don’t mind the turnovers or the missed shots, as long as they’re missed shots, but I need to get you guarding better.”
Like it did on Jan. 5 in a 94-71 win over Virginia Tech, the Terps will rotate Faust, Allen, Howard and possibly Dez Wells on Green, throwing as many looks at the dynamic senior as possible. But offensively, the point guard situation remains “by committee.” Allen received some extended run on Saturday against Wake Forest, more so than he had in past games, while Turgeon likes Howard’s defensive abilities, especially as he grows healthier by the day.
But so long as the focus remains on Faust, Turgeon will be scrutinizing the sophomore’s defense more than anything else.
“Sometimes Nick’s not guarding the best player, we’ll he’s going to start on the best player Thursday,” Turgeon said. “He’s got to pick it up. He needs to become an elite-level defender for us to be successful down the stretch here. I can live with the turnovers, I’ve lived with Dez’s turnovers all year.”
>> It sounds like, until further notice, the starting lineup will remain the same in consecutive games for the first time since the North Carolina State-North Carolina stretch. Jake Layman, James Padgett, Alex Len, Dez Wells and Faust helped the Terps kick off a 26-point blowout over Wake Forest last weekend, and figure to get the nod at Virginia Tech.
Padgett, in particular, has demonstrated a resurgence recently, making all six of his field goals against the undersize Demon Deacons. More importantly, Turgeon said, he’s become more vocal in practice after growing quiet for an extended stretch that coincided with regularly seeing single-digit minutes.
“Sat down with James a couple weeks ago, said, ‘Hey we don’t have a lot of time left, let’s make the most of it, be a better leader,’ ” Turgeon said. “I’m happy for James. Two and a half good games in a row. He’s just smart defensively. He’s always in the right spot, follows the game plan. That’s comforting.”
In an ideal world, Turgeon would create some sort of Padgett-Charles Mitchell hybrid to merge Mitchell’s offensive aggressiveness with Padgett’s defensive mind-set. Ah, well. This will have to do.
“The good thing now, I feel like all four post guys have confidence,” Turgeon said. “That’s a good feeling. Whether we can keep that going the rest of the year, we’ll see.”
Turgeon also mentioned that he likes having either Layman or Logan Aronhalt on the floor to space things. But with Allen regaining his offensive confidence after shooting 3 of 4 from three-point range against Wake Forest, the Terps have more outside threats on the wing.
“We haven’t figured it all out,” Turgeon said. “It could come back to the way it was. But I do like what we’re doing. I think everyone feels comfortable within what they’re doing. We’re also aren’t shooting a lot of crazy shots anymore. Been much more composed.”
>> Anyone else notice a little swag from Len recently, especially given how he responded to Devin Thomas’s inadvertent elbow in the Wake Forest game? Heading into that contest after a lackluster outing against Florida State, the scouting report on Len was probably “put a forearm into his chest; he’s not going to respond,” Turgeon said.
Well, Len rebounded with 12 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes. He also shot 6 for 7 from the field, running the floor with ease for second-chance dunks and defending the paint well.
“He’s got an edge to him,” Turgeon said. “He really does, that’s slowly coming out. Back in his home country it came out a little more. Here it’s taken a while. But there is an edge to Alex that I like.”
Perhaps the expectations soared through the roof after he dropped 23 points and 12 rebounds on Kentucky in the season opener, but Len’s still a 19-year-old figuring things out. Turgeon said the Terps aren’t expecting performances like that every night, but certainly more than once.
“He was fired up and fresh,” Turgeon said of the Kentucky game. “He was coming off the year before when, if you watched film, you didn’t see that kid. I don’t think any of us on our staff or team expected him to play like that every night. It was great to see. Is he capable of putting nights like that together? Absolutely
“Now that we’re hitting shots and our offense is flowing better, that’ll help Alex. We’ll see some zone Thursday, Virginia will double the post Sunday. He’s like any 19-year-old. He’ll be a little inconsistent. Can’t play great every game. He’s had some nice games, and I thought he responded well on Saturday.”