The game story following Maryland’s win over Wake Forest focused on Pe’Shon Howard, who sparked the Terrapins against the Demon Deacons in the ACC tournament first round. His play was suffering in recent weeks, damaged by the turnovers and missed shots that drained his confidence.
A forthcoming Howard opened up about his recent struggles in the Terps locker room Thursday night, speaking about the low points this season and the steps he took to return to the starting lineup. Howard’s 10-point effort against the Demon Deacons, including a crucial three-pointer that was his first in seven games, certainly won’t make Maryland the favorite against Duke in the quarterfinals. But the team’s point guard woes have been so obvious that even minimal gains from Howard took center stage.
As mentioned in the game story, Howard pinpointed the Florida State game as the origin of his woes. On Jan. 9, with the Terps gunning for a program-record 14-game winning streak, the junior committed a turnover on his first offensive possession. A self-described “perfectionist,” Howard has mentioned how any more than one turnover drives him nuts. He committed another eight minutes later, and then his third five minutes into the second half in Maryland’s 65-62 loss.
That one-assist outing, his lowest output of the season to date, relegated Howard to the bench for the Terps’ next game at Miami, where he shot 0 for 5 from the field. He was marginally better in Maryland’s upset of North Carolina State. Then, in Howard’s words, he “walked into a hurricane at North Carolina.” He committed seven turnovers against zero assists in just 14 minutes. The former captain began recusing himself from the leadership role. He missed the second Florida State game with a stomach illness, played a combined 41 minutes over Maryland’s next three games and then was issued a one-game suspension. While his teammates celebrated the Duke win at midcourt, bouncing with the Comcast Center fans, Howard was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t allowed on the bench.
“I really felt like I was letting these guys down,” Howard said Thursday night, leaning back in a chair as a team trainer cut his ankle tape. “But instead of turning around and being tough, and growing up and being mature about it, I was kind of to myself, not wanting to affect them in a negative way either. Whereas now, even if I’m not playing well, I’ll be positive for them, picking them up. That was the main thing. Still be a voice and a command like I was before ACC play.”
After sinking to a season-low seven minutes against Clemson and just eight at Georgia Tech, something clicked. Coach Mark Turgeon kept telling Howard, “You don’t realize how important you as to the team.” A team-wide movie trip to see “21 and Over” rejuvenated the Terps. Most importantly, it helped Howard wipe away the smudges.
“Coach has been really good at communicating,” Howard said. “Like I said, after the Wake game, I thought I did a good job helping Chuck [Mitchell] and Seth [Allen]. I wanted to be in their ear, being a positive role model for them. They have so much talent, and I don’t know if they know how effective they can be. Me being here, I just really want them to live up to their potential.
“That was the main thing I thought I could have done better, was influence my teammates and be positive for them and support them. We had an up and down conference, so not a lot of guys have been in the conference, so I could have done a better job of helping them get through it.”
For better or worse, Howard always has had his ear to the ground when it comes to stories written about him, many of which criticized his inconsistencies this season as the root of Maryland’s offensive worries. But Howard said that he’s actually reinserted social media into his life, becoming more active on Twitter and “having fun with fans” who take jabs at him. The approach has Howard more relaxed. He said he’s confident fans just want to see their team play better.
Thanks for all the support #TerpNation appreciate it can’t answer all your tweets but I saw them all as always appreciate it
Haha on that note it was only one game dnt get carried away wit ur expectations now I jus try to guard n run the team n not turn it over
— Pe’Shon Howard (@P21howard) March 15, 2013
And I Pray WE WIN TOMORROW , IF WE DON’T I KNOW IT WILL BE MY FAULT SOME HOW HAHA night guys love you see you tomorrow
— Pe’Shon Howard (@P21howard) March 15, 2013
>> Alex Len finished with two blocked shots, four assists and zero turnovers, but he had just one field-goal by halftime (his first career three-pointer) made a several defensive miscues that afforded Wake Forest’s post players some open layups. On consecutive possessions, freshman Devin Thomas executed the same spin move from opposite blocks. First, he went in uncontested, then he drew an and-one foul on Len. Maryland’s sophomore center also had issues with high ball screens, often struggling to scramble back to his man after hedging. Twice this resulted in open layups off pick and rolls.
>> No note. Just a video.
>> Mentioned in the pregame notes that the Greensboro News & Record ran an paid advertisement on the front page of its Sports section calling for the firing of Wake Forest Coach Jeff Bzdelik. A reporter asked Bzdelik whether he had seen the ad, which mentioned the coach’s 1-24 record in ACC road games entering the tournament.
“First of all, I don’t read the newspaper and I don’t read the internet,” Bzdelik responded, before iterating his belief that he’s helped build a “really strong foundation” with the Demon Deacons.