In the wake of Maryland’s 90-83 loss to Oregon State on Sunday, Coach Mark Turgeon said he would work on “building depth” to solve the Terps’ defensive struggles.
“Somehow, some way,” he said.
With three games on the horizon in four days at the Paradise Jam, “building depth” means giving more minutes to fringe regulars, throwing more bodies onto the court and hoping some defensive standout emerges. Scoring 83 points but losing to the Beavers, Turgeon said, was unacceptable, particularly given how easy scoring came to the opposite bench.
“If we’re going to be standing straight up on defense and not playing with any more effort than that, then I’ve got to play more guys and see what happens,” Turgeon said Tuesday, one day before Maryland left for the U.S. Virgin Islands. “See if that helps us.”
But who, realistically, could contribute? Center Damonte Dodd was impressive during the preseason exhibition, swatting shots and sprinting down the floor for easy dunks, but that was against Division III Catholic.
Maryland lacks a rim protector, a role Dodd could fill given his 6-foot-10 frame and pogo-stick leaping abilities, but he has committed one foul every five minutes this season, a problem that Turgeon said extended back to the team’s summer foreign tour to the Bahamas.
Still, this weekend’s jam-packed schedule in the tropics could mean more time for Dodd to improve against a relatively weak field, beginning with Friday’s opener vs. winless Marist. The freshman won’t score many points beyond the rim, but he prides himself on the energetic dirty work Maryland lacked against the Beavers.
“Is he ready?” Turgeon said of Dodd. “Probably not. Did his athletic ability against Catholic take over? Yes. Against Oregon State, probably not.”
In the back court, “building depth” may mean more time for junior guard Varun Ram, who played 18 mostly sub-par minutes against Abilene Christian when Turgeon benched Dez Wells due to a “miscommunication” with his star player. A hound-dog defender at just 5-9, Ram’s presence would mean less offensive firepower on the court, but he could be Turgeon’s message to the regulars that defense means more right now. After all, the Terps haven’t struggled to score; it’s keeping opponents from scoring that has sent them below .500.
“I’ve got to figure out a way to get Damonte significant minutes in the first half, five or six minutes, and Varun,” Turgeon said. “If we’re down eight with eight minutes to go at home, and we’re fresh, we might pull that game off [against Oregon State]. But we weren’t fresh. That’s just me not sleeping for two days and trying to figure it out. We’ve got to build depth and I’ve got to have enough guts to play it, and just take the consequences.”
This is the second occasion in which Turgeon has mentioned needing “guts” to play Ram against quality opponents, but Turgeon also said zero Terps are “playing at a high level defensively.” Before the season, he billed junior Nick Faust as the team’s lockdown perimeter defender, a guard who sacrificed his offensive desires for the collective good of the team.
But Faust, who has matched up against Oregon State guard Roberto Nelson (30.3 points per game) and Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier (13.5 points per game, season-high 18 against Maryland), must weather the team’s early struggles and return to form at the Paradise Jam. Otherwise, it gives Turgeon more license to dip deeper into his bench, because “building depth” might also be a thinly veiled code for mixing and matching.
“I’m begging him to [become a better defender],” Turgeon said of Faust. “We watched film late last night and talked about it. That wasn’t all him. That was ball-screen defense and transition defense. Nick did a pretty good job on [Nelson] when it was head-up and he could guard him.
“They know it. They’re not too happy with the way things are going. We got up early this morning, we were watching film late last night. They were pretty intense. They’re obviously focused on trying to do the right thing.”