As fans trickled into Comcast Center for the Maryland women’s basketball game on Saturday afternoon, several groups stopped upstairs and peeked through the glass doors into the auxiliary gym, where the men’s team was practicing. Inside, the energy level was high and the pace frantic. Coach Mark Turgeon barked orders. Point guard Seth Allen directed the offense, finally back from a broken foot.
Outside, however, many of the gawkers represented the swath of Terrapins fans frustrated with the program’s recent struggles. After a scoring possession, one woman muttered under her breath, “How come the balls don’t go in the basket during the game?”
Before Christmas break, Maryland’s mid-December progress unraveled during a six-point loss at home to Boston University. Turgeon was desperate for answers. Now the Terps (7-5) enter Sunday’s home game against Tulsa (4-8), a week-long break behind them, hopeful of a turnaround.
“It was the best thing we could’ve done,” Turgeon said. “Mentally, we’re fresh, which is important. We’ve got a long ways to go. It’s pretty obvious by the way we’ve been playing. Our approach is just to get better.”
Allen’s return may bolster depth, but he likely will be limited to single-digit minutes against the Golden Hurricane, which is coached by Turgeon’s former college teammate Danny Manning. The Terps still commit turnovers at a high clip, among the nation’s bottom 100 in that category. Punishment for mistakes has ranged from running the steep student section stairs inside Comcast Center to a “33” – six full-court sprints in 33 seconds.
Turgeon has resisted the urge to implement wholesale changes, instead tinkering with the inconsistent group before him. Since winning the Paradise Jam in late November, Maryland has lost three of six and blown any remaining chance for a statement nonconference victory. The defense has been leaky, allowing 83 points to the Terriers at home. The ball security has been faulty, with 14.5 turnovers committed per game. Even the rebounding, once a staple of Turgeon’s teams at Maryland, has collapsed at crucial moments.
“You try things,” Turgeon said. “You can’t change everything, so you try to do subtle things. Some of the subtle movements we’ve done have helped us. Just trying to coach positive as best I can but to be demanding.”
Unlike after the early-season loss to Oregon State, Christmas break didn’t bring any soul-searching among the Terps. No players-only meetings were called, no team-wide intervention about the lack of focus and intensity. Through 12 games the Terps, considered a fringe NCAA tournament team during preseason speculation, have ranked among the nation’s most underwhelming.
“I don’t know if behind is what you’d call it,” forward Jake Layman said. “We’re definitely disappointed with the way we’ve been playing. We know we need to step it up. These next few games are really going to show us how we’re going to play for the rest of the year.”
Instead, they returned home to visit family, free from final examinations, and prepared for Tulsa. Point guard Roddy Peters, a Suitland High graduate, remained nearby to work on his midrange game. Layman relaxed and prepared his body for the grind of conference play.
“It’s not going to change just because you take five days off and come back,” Turgeon said. “It’s not going to be completely different. But hopefully our attitude is more positive as we move forward.”
As Turgeon talked, his back turned to the court, Peters and guard Dez Wells were engaged in a serious game of one-on-one. As Peters left to address the media and Wells called special assistant Juan Dixon over for another bout, one reporter asked about the results.
“Yeah I lost,” Peters said, smiling. “But it’s not over.”