Something to Build On

Coach Turgeon find encouraging aspects from Illinois loss.

It all came together Tuesday night for Mark Turgeon's young Terrapin team. After all the struggles and turnovers and stress, Maryland had finally caught a spark. And then came the second half.

According to Turgeon however, the second half letdown in the 71-62 loss to Illinois was encouraging in some aspects. “Illinois was a winnable game,” said Turgeon on Saturday. “That was a winnable game for us. We've improved a lot obviously to have the first half we had but we went back to the way we had been playing, in the second half. It was just as much us, or even more us, than it was Illinois, who decided the outcome of that game after watching the film.”

“I definitely feel we could've won that game,” said forward Ashton Pankey. “It was right there. In the last few minutes we just lost energy. I think, with the amount of players we have, fatigue really sets in at the end of the game.”

Turgeon has made it crystal clear from the beginning that this team's progression would be a process. Now six weeks into the season and sporting a record of 3-3, the first-year coach seems happy with where his youthful team sits, given all the setbacks the program has had to endure since his arrival.

“In practice we share the ball,” he said. “We're screening better, we're executing better. The guys know their plays. You can see it coming.”

While Turgeon's seems largely optimistic however, that doesn't mean there aren't a number of concerns heading into Sunday's matchup with Notre Dame (5-3) at the Verizon Center.

Instrumental in the Terps' second-half collapse Tuesday night was their performance from the foul line, where they were a shaky 15-of-25 (60.0%). Yet, Turgeon and his coaching staff are choosing an interesting method to address the issues at the charity strike. “We're not shooting free throws this week as a team,” said Turgeon. “Our player's don't even know I'm doing it. They still walk to the foul line during water breaks and shoot them … Guys are still doing it but I'm not talking about it, so I hope it'll work.

By ignoring the free throws in practice, Turgeon hopes to shed light on the other areas the Terps' need to improve. “We still could've won that game with 10 missed free throws the other night … That's what I want our guys to understand,” he said. “They don't need to put so much pressure on themselves shooting free throws because if we do the other stuff it'll take care of it.”

“I don't know what it is, really,” said Pankey. “I think everyone has good mechanics and good form. They just don't fall for us. We shoot like 4,000 free throws a week as a team but in the game they just don't fall.”

The Terps' senior leader, guard Sean Mosley, offered a different explanation for the team's woes at the line. “It's all mental,” said Mosley. “Realize that free throws, you just gotta put yourself in the right mind frame.”

At the top of the list of “other stuff” the Terps need work on, is defense. “Defensively is where I've been the most disappointed because my teams guard,” said Turgeon. “They always have. Even my bad teams guard.”

Not far behind defense on the list of things needing improvement, is rebounding. Maryland was out rebounded 34-27 in Tuesday's loss to Illinois.

“Rebounding, my teams don't usually start this slow,” stated Turgeon. “Our rebounding is a joke. We had 44 bad or no box outs.”

Pankey, whom Turgeon has long heralded as the team's best rebounder, explained his coach's approach to the problem on the boards. “He [Turgeon] says it's not about height and strength, but it's about boxing a man out,” said Pankey. “He emphasizes it a lot and whenever we don't do it he counts it and we run sprints for that.”

Tuesday night's matchup proved to be a career night for junior forward James Padgett, who recorded 16 points and five rebounds in his 28 minutes of play. Padgett, who has made a noticeable improvement from his first two seasons, drew significant praise from his coach and teammates.

“James with 16 against Illinois, and really good bigs, it was a little more than I anticipated,” said Turgeon. “He's really playing with confidence. The week before, practice wise, he was really good.”

“He's in attack mode and that's the one thing you have to be in as a basketball player,” said Mosley. “He's continuing to get better each and every day. Before the Illinois game, he was making moves like it was in the game. So, we knew that we had to go inside to James early.”

“Behind the scenes he's in the gym working out late at night,” added Pankey, Padgett's close friend and roommate. “Over the summer, me and him were going to a lot of individual workouts together and I think that was the biggest thing for James, confidence. He knew he was gonna play so he came prepared.”

Among the many things in the back of Turgeon's mind, is the status of Mosley's ankle heading into Sunday, although the senior guard was very blunt in stating that he felt 100 percent.

“I think he's fine,” said Turgeon. “He tweaked it in the Florida Gulf Coast game and came out. He was sore for a couple of days, but the trainer hasn't said anything to me about it.”

On the offensive side of things, Tuesday night saw sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin shoulder most of the scoring for the Terps, netting 25 points on 8-of-17 shooting. According to his coach however, the team won't go anywhere unless more players get in the mix.

“For us to be any good, it's gotta spread out a little bit,” said Turgeon. “You know I want Terrell, for most of it, to come out of the offense. Sometimes, he can break things off and do his thing … … I told them that during the game the other night. We had broken off for a couple of plays and I said we're never gonna be any good unless we start playing as a team. We get so caught up in the moment sometimes, trying to win that situation, that we don't think about the big picture which is much more important.”

Where that scoring will come from, says Turgeon, is up to the team. “I think across the board all seven guys that play the most minutes are capable of giving us 10 a game at some point,” said Turgeon. “It's just sharing the ball around the offense and trusting your teammates. It'll come. Terrell does take over but he has to do the majority of it right now.”

Maryland's opponent on Sunday, Notre Dame, is coming off of a road trip to Gonzaga, in which they suffered a 73-53 thumping. Yet, Turgeon isn't going to take the Irish lightly.

“They can play a smaller lineup,” said Turgeon. “Mike's a good coach, so he's trying different things … He's got eight or nine good players still and he's kinda mixing and matching.”

Turgeon made it no secret that his opponent's trip around the country may be to Maryland's benefit come Sunday. “I wish we had played them Thursday night,” said Turgeon. “I hope it was really straining for them. I hope they're tired and jet-legged.”

The matchup with Notre Dame is part of the 17th Annual BB&T Classic, and tipoff is slated for approximately 4:45 p.m.

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