UMD Defense Ready for FSU's Sharpshooters

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- After falling to Florida State by 24 in the first meeting, and surrendering 16 3-pointers in the process, Maryland meets the Seminoles once again Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. in the Comcast Center.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Sixteen 3s. No, that's not a typo. Sixteen daggers from beyond the arc, each one a bit more demoralizing for the defense than the last. That's what Florida State did to Maryland back on Jan. 12 in Tallahassee, Fla., an 85-61 UMD defeat that ranked among its worst of the season.

Backup guard Ian Miller came off the bench to nail 6-of-8 treys on his way to 20 points, while backcourt mate Devon Booker drilled 3-of-4, guard Aaron Thomas canned 3-of-5, and even forward Okaro White stepped out to knock down 2-of-4. Add it up, and FSU had set a conference record against an ACC foe with those 16 trifectas.

Now, almost a month later, the Terps (13-10, 5-5 ACC) will see that same group of Seminoles (14-8, 5-5) Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. in the Comcast Center.

"They were just hot," said sophomore point guard Seth Allen, who had just one point in 22 minutes in the first FSU-UMD meeting. "They weren't known as a 3-point shooting team coming in, but since that game they've been shooting better. We have to close out hard, make them drive and let our bigs protect the rim."

It seems all Florida State needed to get going was a Terrapin defense. Since that game the Noles have been dialed in from deep and are up to third in the conference at 37 percent 3-point shooting.

"Our transition defense was terrible that game," said sophomore wing Jake Layman, who had 11 points on Jan. 12. "They can shoot 3s, but they like to run too, and we've been focusing on that. We need to get back on defense."

Defense has been a problem for much of the season, as the Terps have been prone to lackadaisical play while failing to assert will or toughness. While UMD did improve recently, the defensive bugaboos flared back up Feb. 4 in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Terps fell to North Carolina, 75-63, and allowed the Tar Heels to shoot 49 percent from the floor. Point guard Marcus Paige had a field day going against Allen and Co, racking up 25 points, while hitting 4-of-7 from distance.

"Paige got hot, but it wasn't just Seth [guarding him]," Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. "We came off of double screens and didn't show, we got beat in transition, we weren't consistent."

Allen in general has been a hot topic as ACC play has waned. The sophomore has made steady progress since returning from his broken foot injury last month, but he's still not able to give 100 percent all game, all the time. Against UNC Allen shot 4-of-13 and handed out just one assist, while also succumbing to the Heels' up-tempo offense as he was a step slow defensively on more than one occasion.

"I have to be more consistent on defense, more than I have been," Allen said. "[Consistency] is definitely the hardest thing to get back. We've been playing a lot of different styles of teams and offenses, and I have to adjust. I'm not going to score 15 every night, so I've got to run the team and play great defense. I can't always look for my shot; I have to find other guys and if I'm open I'll take my shot."

Turgeon said Allen has come a long way since returning, and his jump shot, decision making and defense is much better than it was a few weeks ago. At the same time, the coach wants him to drive more instead of settling for quick jumpers, and, of course, he wants the defensive intensity to ratchet up.

"There's a lot on Seth's plate," Turgeon said. "But all I ask Seth to do is run our team, make good decisions and play defense. Just do those three things right now."

It's just the opposite for Layman. Even though Maryland has been altogether impatient offensively, tending to jack up a shot 10 to 15 seconds into the possession, Turgeon would love for his sophomore 3-point marksman to put up more shots. The last two games Layman has attempted a combined 13 field goals, and scored 17 points off of them. Against North Carolina, Layman had a mismatch going against freshman Isaiah Hicks, but he was just 2-of-6 and totaled seven points.

"Jake is the one guy on the team I say you've got to get more selfish," Turgeon said. "He's the one guy who is really trying to listen to the coach. I tell the team to move the ball more, don't shoot in 12 seconds -- you have to understand time and score. We're down 4-0, turn it over, and Seth shoots a quick 3. Even Nick's [Faust] first shot [was rushed], and he knew it.

"But Jake, he has to be more aggressive. He had the Hicks kid chasing him and he didn't get a shot off. I said, "Jake there's a reason I put you in there.' … He cant be taking four, six shots; he has to be taking 10, 12 shots."

Layman, for his part, said he has to balance when to pass and when to fire away. He said it's not easy to do, but he has to learn quickly for UMD to be successful.

"I just have to be more aggressive," Layman said. "Coach sees it, the guys see it – I have to be more aggressive with my shot."

Layman and Allen aren't the only ones who came derailed against Carolina. Turgeon said freshman Roddy Peters, who played just six minutes and had zero points, needs to get his confidence back. The coach described how Peters' difficulties shooting and handling puts more pressure on Allen, Dez Wells and Layman, which takes away from their games.

"It's up to [Peters]," Turgeon said. "He has to get it [confidence] back."

Of course, there were a couple positives to come out of the UNC loss. Dez Wells did drop in 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, and sophomore big man Charles Mitchell, though he had just five points, corralled 13 rebounds. Mitchell was back in the starting lineup Jan. 12, and he figures to stay there after the Terps watched sophomore Shaq Cleare play 15 minutes and generate almost no stats.

"I think Charles will start again," Turgeon said. "He practiced well the last two days, he rebounds. Defensively he's a work in progress, but he at least he rebounds and gives us second chance points, which is big. I think our offense is a little better too when he's in there, so he'll start, though Jonathan [Graham], Shaq and Evan [Smotrycz] will play too."

Whoever takes the floor Feb. 8 will be dealing with an FSU squad that just demolished Virginia Tech, but lost three straight prior to that victory. Moreover, the Noles have lost three straight ACC road games to NC State, Duke and Virginia.

As a unit, FSU is eighth in the ACC in scoring (71.1 per game) but third in field-goal percentage (.370). They don't dish out many assists, however, and their dime-to-turnover ratio is worst in the conference at 0.84. FSU is also ninth in rebounding and doesn't hit the offensive glass particularly hard.

But whatever FSU lacks in offensive rebounding prowess, it makes up for from 3.

"They've been lights out from 3, so we have to watch out for that," Layman said. "And [in the paint] they're strong, but we have a bunch of good bigs that can handle their strength down low. But, really, they don't run too much on offense, we just have to play by our principles and get stops."

Thomas is the leading scorer at 13 points per game and is third in the ACC at 45.8 percent from beyond the arc. Booker, White and Miller all hit at least 33 percent of their 3s as well, with the latter actually coming off the bench to do his dirty work.

"They've been shooting it really well in the league. Miller, Booker, Thomas had six [3s] the other night," Turgeon said. "I think they're around 50 percent [from 3] in the league. They've got it going. … We have to play better transition defense, rebounding, our shot selection has to be better."

Florida State has been known to lock down on defense, even though a few of the ACC's better teams have taken it to them. The Noles allow just 61.1 points per game in conference games, while they rank second in blocks per outing (5.95) and sixth in steals (6.27). Thomas is sixth in steals with 1.5 a night, and center Boris Bjanovsky averages almost two blocks per game, good enough for fourth best in the ACC.

"They're so long and they have a lot of quick guards," Layman said. "But that can work to our advantage. We have to try to get mismatches with our quicker guards against their longer ones. And if we do that I think things will work out well."

Turgeon added that Maryland has to can its jump shots because FSU is going to protect the rim.

"We have to get them spread out of a little bit, hit our shots," Turgeon said. "But I think we've gotten better, executing better, passing the ball better, doing better defensively. Hopefully we'll play better tomorrow."

They'd better, because after FSU the Terps take on a pair of ranked teams in No. 20 UVa and No. 11 Duke. Then, after a home game against Wake Forest Feb. 18, UMD squares off against No. 1 Syracuse.

"We have a bunch of ranked teams coming up, and this is a big one tomorrow [against FSU]," Layman said. "We've got to start a run; we're excited."

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