Allen Returns as Terps Try to Bounce Back

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The major news coming out of College Park Dec. 28 was the return of injured point guard Seth Allen, who has been out eight weeks. If all goes well, the sophomore should be on the floor for Maryland's Dec. 29 game against Tulsa in the Comcast Center.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It was just a brief glimpse from outside the auxiliary gym of Maryland's Comcast Center, but watching sophomore Seth Allen handling the point, squaring up for a 3-pointer and running the floor during practice Dec. 28 was a welcome sight. Especially coming off the Terps' demoralizing 83-77 home loss to Boston University last week, dropping them to 7-5 this season.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Allen hadn't seen the floor for almost eight weeks, when his -- and the team's –- fortunes took a turn for the worse thanks to a fractured foot suffered in a preseason practice.

"He was working his butt off, doing everything he could to get back. I'm a little surprised, but he looks good," said sophomore wing Jake Layman, who is second on the team at 14.9 points per game this season. "It's huge [having Allen back]. It gives us another point guard, one of our leaders back. He's going to help us a lot."

That might be an understatement. Without Allen, Maryland has had to rely on a combination of wing Dez Wells and true freshman Roddy Peters to run the point, and the results haven't always been encouraging.

Wells, despite his team-high 15.5 point per game average, hasn't looked especially comfortable heading the offense, evidenced by his 31 turnovers. The junior had a season-high tying six miscues during the Terps' last game against Boston University. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon admitted Wells has been trying to do too much, and his best position is really his natural one: the ‘2' spot.

Peters, meanwhile, has developed into the team's most reliable option, averaging a team-best 3.8 assists per game. But he's also had turnover issues (three per game and five total against Boston University) and has lapsed defensively, drawing Turgeon's ire at times.

Enter Allen, who started seven games as a freshman and ended up averaging 7.8 points, 2.3 assists and, most importantly, less than two turnovers per outing.

"We feel a little more comfortable now that I got another point guard on the floor with me," Peters said. "He'll help me out, get a lot more assists too.

"I wasn't expecting him to be running like he was. I thought he'd be looking around still. But he came back, and he can still shoot it. He'll be alright. … We're going to be playing off each other now."

That may be so, but don't expect Allen to step right in Dec. 29 against Tulsa and reclaim his former role. He just started practicing in earnest Dec. 27, and Turgeon said he's still favoring his foot a bit while working back into game shape.

"He was tired, but he didn't have any pain … and he looked pretty good [in practice]," said Turgeon, who gave his team five days off following the BU loss. "We're hoping if he doesn't get sore [Dec. 28] or [Dec. 29], we'll get him a few minutes [against Tulsa]. If he's not sore we'll try and ease him in. How much? I don't know. We'll see how his foot reacts. … But he's a world-class athlete, and the whole thing is the doctor said he's healed and he's ready to go."

Turgeon cautioned that he's had two former players break their foot, and each had a different recovery timetable. One, the coach noted, came back right on schedule and was effective as soon as the eight weeks were up. The other, however, took a bit longer to round into form. Turgeon isn't sure exactly where Allen is physically, but he did say the sophomore's game is not yet where it was during the preseason.

"He's lost, he's lost, he's lost. You [reporters] didn't see him right before he got hurt and the level he was playing at," Turgeon said. "It'll be a process. I don't think we can expect him to play a lot of minutes [against Tulsa] and expect him to be fantastic. Maybe [he'll play] a few minutes each half."

When Allen does revert to form, he should help Maryland in the two areas that have bothered Turgeon the most. During the Dec. 28 press conference he pointed to turnovers and defense (along with rebounding) as the team's major issues.

In both of the Terps' home losses this year they've done OK offensively, but they surrendered 90 points in a defeat against Oregon State and 83 most recently versus BU. The Terriers ended up shooting 38 percent from 3-point range and canning an eye-popping 23 free throws, while forcing 17 UMD turnovers.

In total, Maryland is allowing foes to shoot 41.3 percent from the floor and average 67.8 points per game, numbers that rank 11th in the ACC. Moreover, UMD's 13.8 turnovers-per-game average sits 83rd nationally and third worst in the conference.

"Our offense, it's not fantastic, but it's good enough to win," said Turgeon, who once against noted how he's still got to solve the frontcourt dilemma what with Shaq Cleare's, Charles Mitchell's and even energetic backup Jonathan Graham's inconsistencies. "So we really have to take care of the ball and be better defensively."

In practice, the head coach has tried to stay positive, but he hasn't been afraid to dish out discipline for mental errors. He said the team had to climb Comcast Center's stadium steps in the wake of the 17-turnover game against BU, and in practice Dec. 28 he had them run a variation of suicides following each miscue.

"We're trying. Some days we're pretty good, some days we're not," Turgeon said. "I think our defense will get a lot better if the turnovers go down."

After the Dec. 21 loss to BU, Turgeon looked particularly distressed, saying he was searching for answers to the squad's woes. Though he'd make subtle adjustments in practice, Turgeon said perhaps the best medicine would be taking time off for Christmas and coming back refocused.

"Players were refreshed, coaches were refreshed. We're not in great shape yet, but we're getting there," Turgeon said. "Mentally we're fresh, which is important. But we've got a long way to go, which is obvious by the way we've been playing. Our approach is to try and get better, and I think we've done that the last day-and-a-half."

It remains to be seen whether he truly uncovered the anecdote, but his players certainly appreciated the break. Many of them spent the five days away from Comcast honing their own games, shoring up certain deficiencies.

"We had a slow start and we hadn't been playing so good, so it was good to get away," said Peters, who mentioned that he feels more comfortable handling the point and isn't hesitant to take change and call out plays. "Guys worked on what they needed to work on. … I worked on my floater and my pull-up jumper, because when I come off screens, I'm used to being so wide open and [the defense] is just waiting for me to drive. So if I can knock the jump shot down that will make me much better. … I've got to hit that 15-footer, and I've got confidence in it now."

Layman said he spent his break allowing his body to recover in anticipation of the rough-and-tumble ACC schedule that begins Jan. 4 against Georgia Tech. He said Maryland has to finish its non-conference schedule strong in order to build momentum.

"We're definitely disappointed with how we've been playing," Layman said. "We definitely need to step it up, and these next two games are really going to show how we play the rest of the year."

***

When Maryland takes on Tulsa Dec. 29 at 7 p.m., it will allow Turgeon and Golden Hurricane head coach Danny Manning a chance to reunite. The two were teammate sat Kansas from 1984-87, and they formed a strong bond that has since been revived now that both share a profession.

"You don't ever want to play against your friends … but when you're coaching, you look at the five guys on the court, not the coach," Turgeon said. "But I had a lot of fun with Danny; it was a lot of fun to play with him, a lot of fun to be his teammate and a lot of fun to hang with him off the court. Hopefully we can get together [Dec. 28] and spend some time together. I think [Tulsa] is staying in Bethesda, so we'll see."

In 1986, the two were on the Jayhawks' Final Four team. Then a year after the Terps' head man graduated, in 1988, Manning led Kansas to the national title while Turgeon was on the bench as a graduate assistant.

"I was just a GA, hanging out, having a great time riding Danny's and Coach [Larry] Brown's coattails," Turgeon said. "I thank Danny all the time for that national championship ring. That was the best year of my life … and I wouldn't have traded that year for anything."

Twenty-five years later, Turgeon is anchoring the Terrapins and Manning is in his second year as Tulsa's head coach. Turgeon said Manning has done "a good job" with the Golden Hurricanes, and the team is much tougher than their 4-8 record indicates.

"[Manning has been] doing a really nice job, and his team plays really hard," Turgeon said. "I knew [Manning] was a smart player, but I didn't think he would get into [coaching]. … But the thing I loved about Danny is he never thought he was better than you, whether or not he was the best player in the country -- which he was. He was the No. 1 pick in the draft.

"Danny started at the very bottom and worked his way up. He didn't step on any toes, and now he's a head coach. It's a passion he has, and he's doing great."

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